cultural history, social history, transnational, food history, Black history, African American, Black women, cooking, cookbooks, Malinda Russell, Edna Lewis, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Norma Jean Darden, Carole Darden


This paper examines cookbooks written by Black women from the mid eighteenth to late twentieth centuries. As cookbooks, these texts are practical and instructional, while also offering insights into the transnational development of food as an expression of cultural history through the Indigenous, African, and European influences evident within the cuisine. African Americans, and more specifically Black women, have contributed to the food history of the Southern United States by developing a distinct African American cuisine. As the author, I reflect on what it means for me – as a white Canadian woman in a border city – to be writing about and making these recipes. By analysing the cookbooks of Malinda Russell, Edna Lewis, Vertamae Smith-Grosvenor, and Carole and Norma Jean Darden, a timeline of cookbooks from the Civil War to the Black Power Movement can be established. Their commonalities, including the use of cookbooks as autobiography and community memoir are features that resonate with the Civil Rights Movement in the latter half of the twentieth century. Food is more than a means of survival. It is a constantly evolving expression of culture, people, and celebration.

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