From essential cookbooks to historical texts.
Black culinary history is shared through cookbooks, memoirs, published research, oral histories, and primary source documents. But not enough.
The food space is hardly exempt from unequal representation of Black individuals and other minorities. I would bet any amount of money that the vast majority of anyone’s cookbooks are authored by white cooks — a reflection of the well-known lack of diversity in the food writing world, but perhaps also failure to seek out more black culinary history and recipes. That should change.
Authors, cooks, and culinary historians like Edna Lewis, Toni Tipton-Martin, Michael Twitty, and more have added so much to our country’s culinary scape. Edna Lewis’s cookbooks of Southern home cooking read like memoirs. Michael Twitty’s award-winning and deeply considered book about black food history and its impact is essential.
I attended Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee book signing back in late fall of 2019. She talked about how hard it was for her to find a black food photographer to shoot the photos for her gorgeous and outstanding cookbook.
These lists will continue to be updated. But for now, here are some — I emphasize some — cookbooks, memoirs, and texts focusing on black culinary history, recipes, topics, and food. They deserve to be read, celebrated, cooked from, and pondered.
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A Guide: Black Culinary History and Cooking
- The Jemima Code, by Toni Tipton-Martin
- Jubilee, by Toni Tipton-Martin
- The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis
- A Taste of Heritage, by Toni Tipton-Martin
- Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking, by NMAAHC et al.
- Carla Hall’s Soul Food, by Carla Hall
- Black Girl Baking, by Jerrelle Guy
- Sweetie Pie’s Recipes, by Robbie Montgomery
Food History, Memoirs, and Nonfiction
- The Cooking Gene, by Michael Twitty
- Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, by Kelley Deetz
- High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, by Jessica B. Harris
- Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons, by Jessica B. Harris
- Notes From a Young Black Chef, by Kwame Onwuache
- Yes, Chef: A Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson
- How Enslaved Chefs Helped Shape American Cuisine, Smithsonian Magazine
- African American Culinary Chefs You Should Know, NMAAHC
- The Forgotten History of Black Chefs, Michael Twitty for Eater
- 6 Black Chefs (and 1 Inventor) Who Changed the History of Food, New York Times
- A Jury of My Peers, Kwame Onwuache
- Black-Owned Businesses to Support, Now and Always, Food52
- How to Support Black-Owned Restaurants in Your Community, Food+Wine
- Aunt Jemima Has a New Name After 131 Years: The Pearl Milling Company, New York Times
This article was originally published in June 2020. Updated February 2021.