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African American History Month: Cookbooks & Food

Updated: June 15, 2022

African American food goes back centuries and includes a wide range of influences, from numerous parts of Africa, from the Caribbean and other parts of the world where the cuisine melded and changed by way of slavery, exploration and local preferences. This is a very small sampling of cookbooks from the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of  African American cooking.

Afro-vegan : farm-fresh African, Caribbean & Southern flavors remixed
Terry, Bryant, 1974-
Call Number: 641.63 T329-2

Bryant Terry contributes a rich array of Afro-vegan recipes that are based on a mix of cuisines from Africa, the Caribbean and American Southern cooking. Tantalizing and surprising ways to enjoy vegan foods.

Black food : stories, art and recipes from across the African diaspora
Call Number: 641.5973 B6275-3

The spectacular cover of this book is an entrée to the contents, which include recipes, recipes, history, stories, photographs and art work that are printed on heavy paper that has a beautiful tactile quality.


Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
Deetz, Kelley Fanto
Call Number: 641.09755 D312

Many of the foods, oyster stew, gumbo, finely fried fish, that are taken for granted as being part of an elevated American cuisine, came from slaves. Deetz’s intensive research methods involved delving into historical and archaeological records. She sheds light on how the concept of southern hospitality was dependent on the cooking ingenuity and finesse of enslaved cooks.

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
Twitty, Michael
Call Number: 641.0975 T974

Food historian Michael Twitty examines his own culinary roots, traditions and recipes and of Southern food, and critiques how these reflect our views on race, provenance and many social issues.

Dethroning the deceitful pork chop : rethinking African American foodways from slavery to Obama
Call Number: 641.0973 D4795

Fifteen essays investigte African American foodways going back to slavery and up to the present time. Scholarly and approachable, these essays help us understand preconceived ideas about soul food and stereotyping of people, places and values that are part of African American culinary history.

The Dooky Chase Cookbook
Chase, Leah.
Call Number: 641.59763 C487

Leah Chase, better known as Dooky Chase, opened her restaurant in New Orleans in 1940, and even though she passed in 2019 at the age of 96, the restaurant is alive. Here are recipes from the Queen of Creole cuisine.

Edna Lewis : at the table with an American original
Call Number: 641.092 L673Ed

A collection of essays that pay tribute to cookbook writer, master chef and outspoken activist.  She brought proper attention to good Southern cooking.

High on the hog : a culinary journey from Africa to America
Harris, Jessica B.
Call Number: 641.0973 H314
A critically acclaimed history of African American cuisine from popular cookbook author Jessica B. Harris. The book traces partcular foods, cooking methods, food traditions and profiles individual cooks throughout American history; includes photographs and selected recipes.

The Jemima code : two centuries of African American cookbooks
Tipton-Martin, Toni,
Call Number: 641.01 T595

An historic overview of more than 150 black cookbooks presented chronologically and abundantly illustrated. The stereotypical image of Aunt Jemima maligned generations of notable cooks and food writers, who brought knowledge and creativity to American cuisine. Toni Tipton-Martin brings clarity and appreciation to their contributions.

Jubilee : recipes from two centuries of African-American cooking
Tipton-Martin, Toni,
Call Number: 641.5973 T595

She states, "It celebrates the enslaved and the free, the working class, the middle class, and the elite. It honors cooking with intentionality and skill, for a purpose and for pleasure."  African American cuisine has a history based on the ingeniousness of slaves who made good meals from what was left over; and the cuisine is based on " ... the lavish cooking--in the plantation kitchen or kitchens staffed or owned by people educated formally or informally in culinary arts."

Full-page color photographs; some recipes are accompanied with reproductions of classic old recipes.

Recipes for respect : African American meals and meaning
Zafar, Rafia,
Call Number: 641.0973 Z17

Rafia Zafar presents a compelling history of African Americans' food cultures, fight for civil rights, entrepreneurship, and strategies to gain equity and dignity. Based on research in diaries, memoirs and fiction this book debunks stereotypes and pays tribute to major contributions made by African Americans to American culture by way of food. 

The rise : black cooks and the soul of American food
Samuelsson, Marcus
Call Number: 641.5973 S193-1

Renowned chef and entrepreneur Marcus Samuelsson writes about his life and the contributions of Black cuisines to the cuisines of the world. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs and lots of unique recipes, Chef Samuelsson provides special spotlights on inidivuals and cultures.

Soul food advisor : recipes and tips for authentic southern cooking
Harrell, Cassandra, 1953-
Call Number: 641.5975 H296

Sharing over 100 recipes, experienced chef and caterer Cassandra Harrell brings us family memories and recipes. From a very early age she watched her grandmother, Big Mama, cook. The roots of her family are in  Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, all of which combine to make special and unique ways of cooking.

Soul food love : healthy recipes inspired by one hundred years of cooking in a Black family
Randall, Alice, 1959-
Call Number: 641.5973 R1875

Alice Randal and her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, combine four generations of family history and cooking with new versions of traditional recipes that are healthier and even less costly. The beautiful format adds to the book's appeal.

And still I cook /
Chase, Leah.
Call Number: 641.59763 C487-1

Leah Chase was known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, and was inducted into the James Beard Foundation. Her restaurant, Dooky Chase, was a gathering spot during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cooking
Lukas, Albert, 1968-
Call Number: 641.5973 L9535

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016, and is home to Sweet Home Café, which celebrates African American contributions to American cuisine. Some of their classic recipes are available to everyone in this user-friendly, beautiful book. Color photographs are throughout, and historical information provides background to each recipe.

Sweetie Pie's cookbook : soulful southern recipes, from my family to yours
Montgomery, Robbie,
Call Number: 641.5975 M788

Robbie Montgomery shares family recipes for smothered pork chops, salmon croquettes, baked chicken along with personal recollections of her life as a back-up singer on the road in 1960s America. Restaurants, cafes and diners were segregated and did not allow African Americans places to eat,  and that's how Montgomery's culinary career began.

Watermelon & red birds : a cookbook for Juneteenth and black celebrations
Taylor, Nicole A.
Call Number: 641.5973 T2445-1

A unique book that is the first cookbook devoted entirely to Juneteenth. It is lavishly illustrated with photographs, history and marvelous recipes.

What Mrs. Fisher knows about old southern cooking : soups, pickles, preserves, etc. : in facsimile with historical notes
Fisher, Mrs.
Call Number: 641.5975 F533 1995

This is a facsimile of the oldest known African-American cookbook published in the United States.

What the slaves ate : recollections of African American foods and foodways from the slave narratives
Covey, Herbert C.
Call Number: 641.0973 C873

African American slaves came from different regions of Africa, and brought with them different customs and ways of preparing a variety of foods. These "foodways" greatly contributed to Creole, Cajun and other variations in Southern cuisine.  Some of this history is based on interviews of ex-salves recorded by the WPA (Works Progress Administration).