Updated: Jun 24, 2022
When I look at my cookbook library that has been edited over the years, I bask in the beauty that the representation of Chefs from all different backgrounds and areas of the globe bring to my table. Those who have taken the time to record recipes and create stories around them, import joy to my being as I pour over each page embracing them as biography’s…novels if you will, while wrapping myself in the warmth of their words and images.
Im particularly moved by those from BIPOC Chefs and Cooks who have shared so much of their spirit in their verse. Be it around Soul, Global or just Good food, they are inspirational and have over the years been part of the wind that has carried my culinary dreams forward. Along with the smiles my collection of cookbooks garner from me, they also allow memories to arise of when they came into my kitchen, like my first cook book which was not a BIPOC one but was part of the journey and relevant to this story. Similar to many, it was “Big Red”, the affectionate name of the Betty Crocker Cookbook that Ma bought me, to go along with my newly purchased JCP non-stick cookware and plastic cooking tools. It was for my first real apartment purchased with my first real credit card. For real.
Filled with all of the basics as well as semi homemade recipes, tips, tricks and variations that were spread throughout, it took everything we learned in Home Ec (where we were taught the egg was the perfect food and along with milk, flour, butter sugar and salt, you could make anything) and allowed one to roll, bake and fry into that next level of adult-ish cooking, complete with a photo of the finished dish for most things. Yup friends, I could make a Pie, Lasagna and Meatballs if desired. That with some chips, dip and Reunite wine was the making of a party.
Young Adult life evolving as it should, romances with vegetarianism, macrobiotic cooking, I eat pork, no I don’t, I eat red meat, non I don’t, I only eat chicken, turkey, fish and seafood, expanded my cookbook shelf like no bodies business. The shift to Brunch, World flavors (before it was Global Cuisine) along with twists on ethnic foods, came into being as time progressed. Down home or leveled up, my cook book library was keeping up.
One of my most treasured adds from that time was and still is, Alexander Smalls “Grace The Table”. He was already a nationally and internationally known Chef, Restauranteur and Opera Singer, but I was just getting to know of him. I cant place when my awareness of him started but Im just glad it did as oh my my, what his recipes did to change how I thought about Soul Food…Good Food, is immeasurable. Purchased in 1999, in Columbus Ohio, my copy has a water stained cover from too many instances of handling it with wet “kitchen” hands along with pages have been dog eared from the top AND the bottom. Section 2 “Other Cities, Many Tables” took my breath away as it spoke to my “I lived in Paris too" heart. Get this book my foodie friends, and his others as well but….GET. THIS. BOOK! It will grace YOUR table and YOUR life as it does mine, Here In My Kitchen.
Stocking my library with additions from Chefs Marvin Woods, Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson and the Heart of Farm to Table Ms Edna Lewis to name a few, helped round out a collection that has far more cookbooks than I can list here, but brings into my kitchen, my home….a place for me to go, sometimes to find respite, other times to find flavor, inspiration and/or ways to take ingredients, techniques and dishes to another level.
For that and to all of these wonderful Chefs of Color that have not only help grace our tables, but stood as examples, beacons of what could be done (cause its much easier to be what we can see) ….Thank YOU!