By Carmen Torrado Gonzalez, Buffalo Street Books
In recognition and celebration of Black History Month, our February Edible Reads column highlights the work of Black authors, cooks, and history-makers. Blackness and Black history has and always will play a central role in supporting the land we grow our food on, writing the recipes we bring to life in our kitchens, and providing a welcoming seat at our proverbial table. Black storytelling, cooking, food, and history, and lives matter.
On Farming/Where our food comes from:
Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farms Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman
How we grow, nourish, and harvest the food we enjoy is vital wisdom for anyone who cooks or eats, wisdom rooted in the work of Black farmers. This book highlights the importance of recognizing the contributions of Blackness and Black people in land cultivation, and recenters them in the modern movement to create an equitable, sustainable, and nourishing food system.
Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
Toni-Tipton Martin has had an incredible career based on sharing the recipes and stories of Black cooks, some we may have never known (or remembered) without her work. The recipes in this book come to life through flavor, joy, and storytelling, and do the work of not only feeding us but inviting us and our loved ones to a table full of the rich, cultural diversity of the people we owe these recipes to.”
The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson
The back cover of this book rightly proclaims that Black food matters, but Black food is not monolithic. Flipping through its bright pages proves just that, with recipes from all around the world that show the vast contributions of Black chefs to every type of cuisine. Cooking from this book is a great way to travel during these quarantined times, or for my fellow native-New Yorkers, a great way to learn how to make chicken and waffles, and who you have to thank them for.
New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads by Bryan Ford
During the coldest months of the year, during an unprecedented pandemic, we are all baking bread. Whether for the first time, or continuing years of steadfast bread-making, Ford is a great companion and teacher. Inspired by his Honduran roots and New Orleans upbringing, Ford infuses his clear approach and techniques to making bread with an emphasis on flavor. A highly recommended addition to every bread obsessed baker’s kitchen.
Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry
Bryant Terry’s cookbook feels like a personal invitation into his kitchen, where he transforms vegetables into stunning Afro-Asian vegan creations. By pairing each recipe with music, Terry teaches us how to cook, groove, and enjoy vegetables as sources of connection, joy, and possibility.”
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
You cannot be an American without feeling a certain claim to Southern food, whether from growing up cooking and eating it, or having enjoyed it on a trip (or, even, having made trips specifically to eat it.) We have all, at one point in our lives, met someone who claims to make the best macaroni and cheese. But, where do these foods come from? Who wrote these recipes, and why? The Cooking Gene tackles these questions, and the larger question of “ownership” throughout African American culinary history, in thoughtful, poignant ways that every best-mac-and-cheese claimer should read.
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi
Onwuachi’s memoir, studded throughout with delicious and exciting recipes, is an inspiring read for future chefs and general audiences alike. Onwuachi shares his culinary coming-of-age story tackling fame and food as a young person of color with powerful honesty, and how his love of food and cooking stayed strong even in the face of an unwelcoming food world.
Carmen Torrado Gonzalez is a local Ithacan, poet, maker, and the current Inventory Manager at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca. She loves cooking, camping, and hanging out with her dog, an elderly papillon named Manny.