The popular Netflix Original documentary series “High on the Hog,” hosted by Stephen Satterfield,takes viewers on a journey through the deeper history and food of Black America. The four-part series was adapted from the 2011 book “High on the Hog,” written by culinary historian and author Jessica B. Harris. Harris has written over 12 books examining the foods of the African diaspora, and this is certainly a must-read.
But if you’re curious to learn more about the contributions of African Americans to American food culture, check out these books written by Black authors. Though they share similar subjects, each one has a different vantage point and voice that pays homage to the author’s own roots.
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“Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking” by Toni Tipton-Martin
With over 100 recipes and historical references, “Jubilee” presents techniques, ingredients and dishes that show the roots of African American cooking beyond Southern and soul food. Tipton-Martin broadens the view of African chefs and their cooking styles by sharing stories of enslaved chefs, known writers and entrepreneurs. When writing “Jubilee” and “The Jemima Code” (see below), Toni Tipton-Martin researched over 400 cookbooks by Black writers dating back to 1827.
In this book, you will find recipes for classic dishes, such as seafood gumbo, buttermilk fried chicken, spoon bread and others that Tipton-Martin says she did not grow up eating in her “Black California middle class upbringing.”
Get “Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking” for $20.07.
“The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks” by Toni Tipton-Martin
“The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” by Michael W. Twitty
This food memoir by renowned culinary historian Michael W. Twitty talks about the origins of soul food, barbecue and what we know as Southern cuisine today. Twitty provides a candid personal narrative of what his ancestors survived on for three centuries, as well as African American perspectives on a variety of issues related to race, politics, economics and enslavement in what he calls “his South.”
In the book, find recipes, stories and historical documents from Twitty’s research during his Southern Discomfort Tour. Twitty also wrote “Rice” (see below), a new book in Savor the South Cookbook series in which he shares 51 rice-based recipes for every course.
Get “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” for $14.69.
“Rice: A Savor the South Cookbook” by Michael W. Twitty
“Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer” by Matthew Raiford and Amy Paige Condon
“Bress ’n’ Nyam,” meaning “Bless and Eat” in Gullah Geechee dialect, is rooted in Matthew Raiford’s ancestry in Brunswick, Georgia. The sixth-generation chef-farmer’s story begins in the 1800s, when his forefather Jupiter Gilliard purchased farmland as a freedman. Raiford marries his family recipes and low country ingredients with his global travels and experiences to create a kaleidoscope of recipes that span across cultures.
The book is organized into elements: earth, water, fire, wind, nectar and spirits, offering recipes in each category that inspire home chefs everywhere in the world, while sharing a sense of community and family brought together by food.
Get “Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes From a Sixth-Generation Farmer” for $22.51.
“Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing” by Jerrelle Guy
If you salivated over Jerrelle Guy’s Juneteenth-themed dessert spread while watching the Netflix documentary, you’ll want to pick up her book. Find her recipes for apple walnut crumble, strawberry butter rose buns and mango lime coconut cake in her sensory cookbook based on her food blog, Chocolate for Basil.
Guy recalls childhood memories of visiting family members and braiding her hair while guiding adventurous bakers to cook with vegan, gluten-free and healthy ingredients, such as wheat pastry flour, flax seeds and turmeric. Besides desserts, you will also find savory recipes for plaited dukkah bread, sun-dried tomato and seed crackers, and black-eyed pea hummus.
Get “Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing” for $18.43.
“Black Enough Man Enough: Embracing My Mixed Race and Sexual Fluidity” by Gee Smalls
Atlanta-based Gee Smalls writes about being LGBTQ and Black in the South in his inspiring memoir. He talks about his childhood growing up with mixed-race parents in the Gullah Geechee culture on James Island, South Carolina, in the 1980s, living with self-doubt, discrimination and recrimination, finding love as a same-gender-loving man and creating a 21st-century blended family. Smalls is the executive chef and co-owner of Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar, where he serves recipes that have been passed down by his family.
Get “Black Enough Man Enough: Embracing My Mixed Race and Sexual Fluidity” for $24.95.
“Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller
In his third book, author, culinary historian and barbecue judge Adrian Miller writes the untold stories of Black barbecue entrepreneurs and trailblazers over three centuries. The book sheds light on the origins of barbecue (it started with Indigenous Americans) and its different influences, techniques and flavors. There are also people profiles, interviews with pit masters, a selection of 22 recipes and a listing of Miller’s favorite Black-owned barbecue restaurants across the country. “Black Smoke” is a good pick for anyone who loves to eat barbecue and wants to learn more about its history.
Get “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” for $27.
“Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen: Food and Family Lore from the Lowcountry” by Sallie Ann Robinson
Known as the “Gullah Diva,” Sallie Ann Robinson is a sixth-generation Gullah (descendent of enslaved African Americans who settled in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia) native of Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. She uses cooking as a way to preserve the Gullah history and culture. In her most recent cookbook-memoir, Robinson shares easy-to-follow recipes that were “not written, but passed down” through her family. Inspired by the island’s local ingredients that one could raise, kill, grow or catch, she includes directions for Carolina country broils, ‘Fuskie shrimp and blue crab burger and blueberry pound cake.Get “Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen: Food and Family Lore from the Lowcountry” for $28.
“The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food With Global Flavors” by Deborah VanTrece
Former flight attendant-turned-chef and owner of the Atlanta restaurant Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, Deborah VanTrece recently released her new cookbook. The vibrant recipes showcase classic soul dishes with modern twists inspired by her travels to France, Italy, Spain and the Middle East. Find recipes for candied salmon belly bacon, foie gras dirty rice, neck bones gnocchi and duck schnitzel that honor African American food traditions where no part of the animal went to waste. VanTrece opens a world of exciting flavors accompanied by personal storytelling.
Get “The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food With Global Flavors” for $28.06.
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