October is National Cookbook Month. Throughout the year, you can read about cookbook releases right here at Black Southern Belle. But there are cookbooks that can be found in your own family and community heritage that provide inspiration and pride. Here are five ways to explore your heritage with cookbooks.
Author Toni Tiption Martin’s book, The Jemima Code, is an encyclopedic exploration of Black cookbooks throughout American history. Church cookbooks are a huge part of our food history. If you have a church cookbook in your possession, hold onto it tightly. It’s worth more than gold. Why? It contains information about the people in the church community that produced it, the people who gave recipes, and it also tells you how foods were prepared in your region. Public libraries and local historical societies sometimes have a few in their possession.
Sorority and women’s club cookbooks
Like church cookbooks, sorority and club cookbooks were published for fundraising. In the case of sororities, chapters curated recipes and information from members. Organizations like The Links, Jack and Jill, 100 Black Women did the same. One of the most famous series is The National Council of Negro Women’s collection of cookbooks. Occasions to Savor
Our Meals, Menus, & Remembrances is a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. produced book (2004). The Elk Grove Alumnae chapter published Crimson and Cream Cooks while the Gamma Kappa Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority published Cooking with the Pink and Green AKA Palate Pleasers, and Zeta Phi Beta’s Gamma Zeta chapter in Charleston has recently published its The Finer Women Legacy Cookbook. Don’t forget to look for BGLO fraternity cookbooks as well as professional organizations’ cookbooks too.
Zella Palmer’s Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard is an inspiration to seek out other cookbooks published by and about HBCUs. Perhaps your local alumni chapter published a cookbook or a club at your university created one as a fundraiser. Author Carolyn Quick Tillery has built a career out of showcasing the recipes of a few HBCUs: Tuskegee, Howard and Hampton. An exciting way to use these recipes is tailgating parties or gatherings for a few alumni friends at home.
Family reunion cookbooks
Is it at all possible that your family produced its own cookbook? Many Black family reunions have done so over the years as a way to preserve recipes and memories of the cooks. The National Council of Negro Women have two to inspire the creation of a family reunion cookbook: Black Family Reunion Cookbook and Black Family Dinner Quilt Cookbook : Health Conscious Recipes & Food Memories. As the holidays approach, if you have one, use it to send gifts or add to a family dinner.
And last but not least…
Black magazine cookbooks
Somewhere in a shoebox or old photo album are recipes torn out of old issues of Ebony and Essence magazines. Our foremothers knew those were some of the best ever and it would not be surprising if some of those dishes ended up on your dinner tables. Thankfully, we can still find them for purchase online in various forms and editions. Buy one if even for the sake of nostalgia and to add to your collection.
Bring a few people into your heritage celebration and buy some of these books to give as Christmas gifts. Throw in a cookbook holder for the kitchen counter while you are at it. And remember the gift you are giving represents our beautiful heritage past, present and future.
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