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BOOK REVIEW:

Sweet Home Cafe cookbook : a celebration of African American cooking

Call Number: 
641.5973 L9535

September 24, 2016 was the dedication and opening day for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which included the Sweet Home Cafe.

This cookbook has the cafe's recipes, which represent the extensive diaspora of African Americans and encompass culinary traditions from Africa, the Caribbean, Native Americans, Europeans, Latinos, plus influences from recent African immigrants.  There is a historical introduction and overview of African American cooking, cooks, eateries, The Green Book, and information about permanent exhibits at the museum which reference cooking implements and the history of segregated eateries in the United States.

The recipes are historically correct, with a clever upper corner feature showing:  the number of people served; active and total preparation time; plus a small map of the United States indicating the geographical origin of the recipe. Recipes are presented in clear print, with easy-to-follow directions, chef's notes, and stunning close-up color photographs. Each chapter includes an introduction to a particular region, so that readers will have information about the Creole Coast, the Western Range, the Agricultural South, an area defined as Culinary Cousins, and the Northern States. There is a chapter listing recipes by region, and menus for specific times of the week, the year, or holidays, e.g., Juneteenth, Calabash Carolina Fish Fry, the Sunday Table, and other important dining days.

The selected bibliography has books with more detailed histories of how this cuisine developed, from the slaves who cooked for themselves and for their masters, into a culinary heritage that is uniquely American. The history of African American cuisine is rich in variety and diversity. This book celebrates and documents black home cooks who were inventive and resourceful.  Often without enough money, segregated from having access to the best produce, they created enduring "culinary masterpieces" which are part of American culture.

This cookbook is a joyous invitation to cook and invite everyone to the table.

Illustrations include close-up color photographs of dishes; historical black and white photographs; a selected bibliography; and a detailed index.

This book is on LAPL Reads Best of 2018: Non-Fiction.

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