Gullah Culinary Griot: Vertamae Smart-Grovenor Books To Keep In Your Kitchen

Born in Hampton County, SC, Vertamae Smart-Grovenor, was a culinary legend well before her time. This SC Lowcountry native is a Gullah Cooking legend who explore the history, legacy, and preservation of Gullah cuisine. This Gullah legend was a writer, cookbook author, historian, culinary griot, and avid traveler. Check out the following books by this storied culinarian below and be sure to try a few of her recipes for your next family gathering.

Explore this video to learn more about her:

Gullah Culinary Griot: Vertamae Smart-Grovenor Books To Keep In Your Kitchen

Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl

Vibration Cooking was first published in 1970, not long after the term “soul food” gained common use. While critics were quick to categorize her as a proponent of soul food, Smart-Grosvenor wanted to keep the discussion of her cookbook/memoir focused on its message of food as a source of pride and validation of black womanhood and black “consciousness raising.”

In 1959, at the age of nineteen, Smart-Grosvenor sailed to Europe, “where the bohemians lived and let live.” Among the cosmopolites of radical Paris, the Gullah girl from the South Carolina low country quickly realized that the most universal lingua franca is a well-cooked meal. As she recounts a cool cat’s nine lives as chanter, dancer, costume designer, and member of the Sun Ra Solar-Myth Arkestra, Smart-Grosvenor introduces us to a rich cast of characters. We meet Estella Smart, Vertamae’s grandmother and connoisseur of mountain oysters; Uncle Costen, who lived to be 112 and knew how to make Harriet Tubman Ragout; and Archie Shepp, responsible for Collard Greens à la Shepp, to name a few. She also tells us how poundcake got her a marriage proposal (she didn’t accept) and how she perfected omelettes in Paris, enchiladas in New Mexico, biscuits in Mississippi, and feijoida in Brazil. “When I cook, I never measure or weigh anything,” writes Smart-Grosvenor. “I cook by vibration.”

This edition features a foreword by Psyche Williams-Forson placing the book in historical context and discussing Smart-Grosvenor’s approach to food and culture. A new preface by the author details how she came to write Vibration Cooking.

Link to Buy:

Vertamae Cooks in the Americas’ Family Kitchen (Americas’ Family Kitchen (Television Program).) 

A companion volume to the PBS series on the art of African-American cuisine introduces 110 delectable recipes, accompanied by folklore and anecdotes that trace the history and contribution of African roots to American cookery

Link to Buy:

Vertamae Cooks Again: More Recipes from the Americas’ Family Kitchen 

Organized by course, a cookbook serves up a collection of recipes from all the cultures that make up the Americas, including the Gullah culture of the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia and the Island cultures of the Caribbean.

Link to Buy:

Michiel Perry

Michiel is a Black Southern Belle living a lowcountry life. I love all things fashion, home decor and southern! When I am not running around doing fun stuff for Black Southern Belle, I live in antique stores and have a minor obsession with historic homes 🙂

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