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The Best Cookbooks by Black Authors for Cultural Recipes

Jan 12, 2022 03:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho

The history of African American cuisine is, in fact, the history of American food. Many of your favorite ingredients and dishes actually have African roots. One of the best ways to appreciate the culture and history of Black people is through its food and there are plenty of cookbooks out there paying homage to Black history. The books below are essential reading for both the home and professional cook alike, filled with writers, chefs, and journalists with recipes covering the African continent, Southern comfort food, BBQ, and much more to satisfy the appetite.

In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan

Hawa Hassan and food writer Julia Turshen gathered recipes from grandmothers (Bibis) in eight African countries facing the Indian Ocean. In this incredible volume, there are 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis from South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea. Most notably, these eight countries are at the backbone of the spice trade, many of them exporters of things like pepper and vanilla. The flavor-forward comfort foods of In Bibi’s Kitchen can be whipped up easily in American kitchens.


The New Way to Cake by Benjamina Ebuehi

The Great British Bake Off fans will be familiar with Benjamina Ebuehi from the seventh season of the series. For those who don't watch the show, this London-based baker won audiences and the judges over with her inventive flavor combinations. The book is filled with 60 exciting recipes to help home bakers expand their cake repertoire and explore new flavors in their baking. Inspired by both her Nigerian heritage and growing up in the cultural capital of London, Ebuehi incorporates new ingredients and flavor combinations to bring modern and unfussy cakes to your table - like caramelized plantain upside-down cake, and a plum and black pepper cake for you to try at home.


Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin

Thomas Jefferson is often credited with introducing French cuisine to America, but who were the people actually cooking these recipes? This is the question posed by activist and culinary journalist Toni Tipton-Martin in her raw collection of stories and recipes. By reviewing over 400 Black-authored cookbooks spanning from 1827 to the present, Tipton-Martin highlights the influence and tradition of Black cooking in American and its oft-overlooked contribution to culinary history on a whole. Through recipes and stories, we cook along with these pioneering figures, from enslaved chefs to middle- and upper-class writers and entrepreneurs. With more than 100 recipes, from classics such as Sweet Potato Biscuits, Seafood Gumbo, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and Pecan Pie with Bourbon to lesser-known but even more decadent dishes like Bourbon & Apple Hot Toddies, Spoon Bread, and Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne, Jubilee presents techniques, ingredients, and dishes that show the roots of African American cooking.


Brown Sugar Kitchen by Tanya Holland

Tanya Holland's West Oakland restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen is more than just an eatery. The soul-food spot is a neighborhood watering hole where sharing food turns into making connections. The restaurant also has an accompanying cookbook, the “Brown Sugar Kitchen” cookbook, which features Louisiana-inspired soul food recipes like cornmeal waffles and apple cider syrup, smoked pork hash, and peach and nectarine cobbler. From caramel layer cake with brown butter-caramel frosting to herbed mushroom spoon bread, the recipes Holland shares prove why her interpretation of soul food has become so important to the neighborhood.


Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry, a food justice activist and author penned Vegetable Kingdom, a cookbook showcasing the vibrant, decadent world of vegan cooking, while also breaking down the fundamentals of plant-based cooking, showing you how to make delicious meals from popular vegetables, grains, and legumes. This cookbook offers tips on how to build your pantry, your toolkit, and even a music playlist featuring everything from jazz to hip hop. The book is organized by ingredient, making it easy to create simple dishes or showstopping meals based on what’s fresh at the market. Terry makes dishes like tempura green beans and warm butter bean salad with roasted bell peppers and umami powder accessible and simple for cooks on every level.


The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry

This cookbook invites readers into Ayesha Curry's home kitchen where the entrepreneur and NBA wife — who lost 35 pounds — cooks her fun takes on classic recipes for her husband and three children. There are more than 100 recipes, most of which can cater to picky eaters, and all take less than an hour to make. You'll find sheet pan dinners, crowd-pleaser pasta, hearty salads, healthy updates, takeout favorites, and fresh spins on classic dishes-plus kid-friendly meals, desserts, and sides (and a few beverages just for the adults).


Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson

Winner of the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook, Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson’s cookbook give us a window to food that transcends borders. Together, Alexander and JJ have spent more than three decades traveling the African diaspora. The Afro-Asian flavor profile is a window into the intersection of the Asian diaspora and the African diaspora. An homage to this cultural culinary path and the grievances and triumphs along the way, Between Harlem and Heaven isn’t fusion, but a glimpse into a cuisine that made its way into the thick of Harlem's cultural renaissance.

The Africa Cookbook by Jessica B. Harris

Culinary historian and cookbook author Jessica B. Harris collected more than 200 recipes for this tome—all from different nations in Africa. From the savory stews of the western savannah to the curries and chutneys of the Swahili coasts, Harris has assembled a collection of recipes that reflects the modern innovations and rich heritage of kitchens across Africa. Potatoes with Mint Leaves and Garlic from Algeria and Senegal’s classic Theibou Dienn are among the many flavorful dishes that offer a change of pace for contemporary North Americans. Illustrated with archival postcards from the author's collection, "The Africa Cookbook" celebrates countries whose contributions to the way we eat today have been too long ignored.


Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing by Jerrelle Guy

In this James Beard Award-nominated book, Jerrelle Guy leads you on a baking journey through recipe descriptions that touch on related moments in her life. Her recipes are tied to her life and her memories that were shaped by her Southern-born father and her Guam-born mother, but especially by her grandmother, Big Ma, her guiding hand in the kitchen. Guy uses all five senses, sharing food memories while using ingredients that make her feel connected to family.





Taste of Home


 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content. 

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