African American Food Memoirs and Cookbooks

A selection of cookbooks and food memoirs by African American chefs and writers.

To celebrate Black History Month, this week's Advice for Reader's blog post highlights African American food memoirs and cookbooks. You'll find recipes for delicious vegan meals, meat dishes, and vegetarian cuisine from award winning authors and chefs.

To learn more about each book and/or to place books on hold, just click on the book cover or the title.

Happy reading (and eating)!

Food Memoirs and History

Notes from a Young Black Chef Southern Food and Civil Rights Farming While Black 

Rise If I can Cook You Know God Can How Food Has Shaped African American Life

Notes from a young Black chef : a memoir / Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi had opened—and closed—one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had sold drugs in New York and been shipped off to rural Nigeria to “learn respect.” He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars made from selling candy on the subway and starred on Top Chef. Through it all, Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant, even when, as a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the food world can be for people of color. In this inspirational memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age; a powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest account of chasing your dreams—even when they don’t turn out as you expected.

Southern food and civil rights : feeding the revolution / Frederick Douglas Opie
From home cooks and professional chefs to local eateries and bakeries, food has helped activists continue marching for change for generations. Paschal's restaurant in Atlanta provided safety and comfort food for civil rights leaders. Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam operated their own farms, dairies and bakeries in the 1960s. "The Sandwich Brigade" organized efforts to feed the thousands at the March on Washington. Author Fred Opie details the ways southern food nourished the fight for freedom, along with cherished recipes associated with the era.

Farming while Black : Soul Fire Farm's practical guide to liberation on the land / Leah Penniman ; foreword by Karen Washington
Farming While Black is the first comprehensive “how to” guide for aspiring African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity as agriculturists and for all farmers to understand the distinct, technical contributions of African-heritage people to sustainable agriculture. At Soul Fire Farm, author Leah Penniman co-created the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion (BLFI) program as a container for new farmers to share growing skills in a culturally relevant and supportive environment led by people of color. Farming While Black organizes and expands upon the curriculum of the BLFI to provide readers with a concise guide to all aspects of small-scale farming, from business planning to preserving the harvest.

The rise : Black cooks and the soul of American food / Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn ; recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook ; photographs by Angie Mosier
It is long past time to recognize Black excellence in the culinary world the same way it has been celebrated in the worlds of music, sports, literature, film, and the arts. Black cooks and creators have led American culture forward with indelible contributions of artistry and ingenuity from the start, but Black authorship has been consistently erased from the story of American food. Now, in The Rise, chef, author, and television star Marcus Samuelsson gathers together an unforgettable feast of food, culture, and history to highlight the diverse deliciousness of Black cooking today.

If I can cook, you know God can : African American food memories, meditations, and recipes / Ntozake Shange ; foreword by Vertamae Grosvenor ; [epilogue 2019 by Ntozake Shange]
a delightfully eclectic tribute to black cuisine as a food of life that reflects the spirit and history of a people. This edition, with delectable illustrations, features additional recipes—including two vegan dishes—that connect the culinary past to the present and welcomes a new generation of readers. With recipes such as “Cousin Eddie’s Shark with Breadfruit” and “Collard Greens to Bring You Money,” Shange instructs us in the nuances of a cuisine born on the slave ships of the Middle Passage, spiced by the jazz of Duke Ellington, and shared by generations across the African diaspora.

Getting what we need ourselves : how food has shaped African American life / Jennifer Jensen Wallach
Traces the history of African American food habits from West African origins through the twenty-first century, offering a unique set of insights into the daily concerns of black people in the US. The book demonstrates that from capture and enslavement through emancipation, the civil rights movement, and beyond, African American have embraced an understanding of the importance of food that goes beyond merely having enough to eat

Cookbooks

Sweet Potato Sould Black Girl Baking Karla Hall Brown Sugar Kitchen

Edna Lewis in Pursuit of Flavor Sweet Home Cafe Son of a Southern Chef Soul

               The Red Rooster Cookbook Meals, Music and Muses Vegetable Kindgom    

Sweet potato soul : 100 easy vegan recipes for the southern flavors of smoke, sugar, spice, and soul / Jenné Claiborne
A collection of soul food and Southern cooking plant-based recipes from the vegan personal chef and popular blogger features such dishes as sweet potato pancakes, miso peachy arugula salad, Cajun blackened tofu sandwich, and strawberry shortcake.

Black girl baking : wholesome recipes inspired by a soulful upbringing / Jerrelle Guy, founder of Chocolate for Basil
Growing up sensitive and slightly awkward in a race-conscious space, Guy decided early on that good food is the most powerful way to connect, understand, and heal. She leaders readers on a sensual baking journey, using the fives senses, as she retells food memories with ingredients that involve whole flours, less refined sugar, and vegan alternatives.

Cooking with love : comfort food that hugs you / Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
Collects one hundred twenty-five recipes that adapt favorite comfort foods for overall taste enhancement, including spicy carrot ginger soup, chicken pot pie and five-flavor pound cake.

Brown Sugar Kitchen : new-style, down-home recipes from sweet west Oakland / Tonya Holland ; with Jan Newberry ; foreword by Michael Chabon ; with editorial help from Phil Surkis ; photographs by Jody Horton
Brown Sugar Kitchen is more than a restaurant. This soul-food outpost is a community gathering spot, a place to fill the belly, and the beating heart of West Oakland, a storied postindustrial neighborhood across the bay from San Francisco. The restaurant is a friendly beacon on a tree-lined parkway, nestled low and snug next to a scrap-metal yard in this Bay Area rust belt. Out front, customers congregate on long benches and sprawl in the grass, soaking up the sunshine, sipping at steaming mugs of Oakland-roasted coffee, waiting to snag one of the tables they glimpse through the swinging doors.

In pursuit of flavor / Edna Lewis with Mary Goodbody ; foreword by Mashama Bailey ; illustrated by Louisa Jones Waller
In this James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame-inducted cookbook, Miss Lewis (as she was almost universally known) shares the recipes of her childhood, spent in a Virginia farming community founded by her grandfather and his friends after emancipation, as well as those that made her one of the most revered American chefs of all time. Interspersed throughout are personal anecdotes, cooking insights, notes on important Southern ingredients, and personally developed techniques for maximizing flavor.

Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cooking / Albert Lukas and Jessica B. Harris, with contributions by Jerome Grant ; foreword by Lonnie G. Bunch III ; introduction by Jacquelyn Serwer
Since the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, its Sweet Home Café has become a destination in its own right. Showcasing African American contributions to American cuisine, the café offers favorite dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, adding modern flavors and contemporary twists on classics. Now both readers and home cooks can partake of the café's bounty: drawing upon traditions of family and fellowship strengthened by shared meals, Sweet Home Café Cookbook celebrates African American cooking through recipes served by the café itself and dishes inspired by foods from African American culture.

Son of a Southern chef : cook with soul / Lazarus Lynch
A wildly inventive soul food bible from a two-time Chopped winner and the host of Snapchat's first-ever cooking show. Thousands of fans know Lazarus Lynch for his bold artistic sensibility, exciting take on soul food, and knockout fashion sense. Laz has always had Southern and Caribbean food on his mind and running through his veins; his mother is Guyanese, while his father was from Alabama and ran a popular soul food restaurant in Queens known for its Southern comfort favorites. He created "Son of a Southern Chef" on Instagram as a love letter to the family recipes and love of cooking he inherited.

Soul : a chef's culinary evolution in 150 recipes / Todd Richards ; foreword by Sean Brock
Presents recipes inspired by the author's soul food roots, including such dishes as collard waffles, sausage-stuffed onions, smoked oysters on toast, oxtail potpies, and potato-crusted flounder.

Red Rooster cookbook : the story of food and hustle in Harlem / Marcus Samuelsson ; photographs by Bobby Fisher ; foreward by Hilton Als ; text with April Reynolds ; recipes and text with Roy Finamore ; illustrations by Rebekah Maysles and Leon Johnson
When the James Beard Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson opened Red Rooster on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem, he envisioned more than a restaurant. It would be the heart of his neighborhood and a meet-and-greet for both the downtown and the uptown sets, serving Southern black and cross-cultural food. It would reflect Harlem's history. Ever since the 1930s, Harlem has been a magnet for more than a million African Americans, a melting pot for Spanish, African, and Caribbean immigrants, and a mecca for artists. These traditions converge on Rooster’s menu, with Brown Butter Biscuits, Chicken and Waffle, Killer Collards, and Donuts with Sweet Potato Cream. They’re joined by global-influenced dishes such as Jerk Bacon and Baked Beans, Latino Pork and Plantains, and Chinese Steamed Bass and Fiery Noodles. Interspersed with lyrical essays that convey the flavor of the place and stunning archival and contemporary photos, The Red Rooster Cookbook is as layered as its inheritance.

Meals, music, and muses : recipes from my African American kitchen / Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers
Alexander Smalls has owned, conceptualized, and helmed some of New York's most iconic African American restaurants. Now, he follows up the James Beard award-winning Between Harlem and Heaven with Meals, Music, and Muses, a look at his world glimpsed through the lenses of music, food, culture, and history. It is a must-read journey through a life well lived and in recipe and reminiscence details the musical forms learned, the friends and family who instructed, and the foods shared along the way."

Vegetable kingdom : the abundant world of plant-based recipes / by Bryant Terry ; photography by Ed Anderson
More than 100 beautifully simple recipes that teach you the basics of a great vegan meal centered on real food, not powders or meat substitutes--from the James Beard Award-winning chef and author of Afro-Vegan Food justice activist and author Bryant Terry. He breaks down the fundamentals of plant-based cooking, showing you how to make delicious meals from popular vegetables, grains, and legumes. Recipes like Dirty Cauliflower, Barbecued Carrots with Slow-Cooked White Beans, Millet Roux Mushroom Gumbo, and Citrus & Garlic-Herb-Braised Fennel are enticing enough without meat substitutes, instead relying on fresh ingredients, vibrant spices, and clever techniques to build flavor and texture.

Jubilee : recipes from two centuries of African-American cooking / Toni Tipton-Martin
Throughout her career, James Beard Award-winning author Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and deth of African American cuisine. She's introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what's considered to be our national cusine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cusine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it? In Jubilee, Tipton-Martin brings these masters into our kitchens. 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, Jubilee presents techniques, ingredients, and dishes that show the roots of African American cooking--deeply beautiful, culturally diverse, fit for celebration.

All descriptions provided by the publishers.