In the Chinese calendar, 2017 will be the Year of the Rooster. To me, that means it’s the Year of Fried Chicken. But for now, 2017 will be important for other reasons….
I started making a list of books that will be coming out in 2017. The list is intended mostly a reminder to myself to order or pre-order them in a timely fashion, but you may find it informative. If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you’ll share my interest in one or all of these. I’ll try to keep this post updated, and add to it as other books pop up. The links are to Amazon, but obviously, these books will be available from other dealers as well.
January: Look for Fred Opie’s Southern Food and Civil Rights: Feeding the Revolution. It includes a chapter, for instance, on Georgia Gilmore‘s “Club from Nowhere” that baked pies to raise money during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956.
Dr. Opie has a gift for finding perspectives and details that others miss, so I’m pretty sure his new work will be invaluable.
February: Adrian Miller’s new project, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas, will come out around Presidents Day. Early figures, like Washington’s chef, Hercules, or Jefferson’s chef, James Hemings, may already be somewhat familiar, as well as LBJ’s family cook, Zephyr Wright, but Miller will be giving us so much more…plus some recipes!
In his instant classic, Soul Food, Miller has an easy, friendly way of writing that makes us forget that we’re actually reading a carefully-researched scholarly work, complete with many pages of endnotes and an extensive bibliography. So I’m guessing that this new book will prove to be just as invaluable.
Oh, and speaking of…Soul Food will be coming out in paperback form in February, so if you still haven’t read it, you’ll have another option…and no more excuses.
Spring. Looking forward to Jennifer Booker’s new cookbook, Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow. The combination makes sense: Raised on the farm down in Mississippi and trained in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, Booker is completely comfortable talking about both down-home cooking and French cuisine.
I have expectations for this new book! Booker’s first cookbook, Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, has become one of my favorites. It works on three levels. First, the recipes are clear and easy to follow, and, of the ones I’ve tried so far, the results taste good. Second, there’s a lot of good “how-to” material that stands on its own, whether you get around to trying the accompanying recipe itself or not. Third, there’s autobiographical and family stuff, like old photos, that are interesting in their own right. I’m assuming that in this new book, Booker’s recipes and explanations will likewise allow me to feel confident in trying some new dishes.
Summer. Watch for Michael Twitty’s The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South. Those who follow Twitty’s Afroculinaria blog have been waiting for this project to come to print for some time, and now it’s going to happen.
Twitty is one of those rare inherently interesting persons who draws us in when he’s writing about any of his many passions, whether it’s his Jewish faith, social justice issues, his genealogical studies, or his research in African American history or cooking. As a food historian, it’s not just that he knows what he’s talking about. It’s also that he backs it up with his hands-on demonstrations, which adds a level of authenticity to his research. If you want to know what was involved in colonial cooking in Virginia, for instance, he can literally take you outside and show you how it was done.
In his new book, he’ll be weaving together a number of these threads, drawing on his own family history to help explain how southern cooking developed, and what that in turn can tell us about justice and race issues today.
When my own blog is titled “Food Tells a Story,” it’s obvious that I’m in tune with Twitty’s approach of using food as a way to open up larger matters. But even if you’re coming to the book from a completely different perspective, I’m pretty sure you’re going to like it, learn from it, and be glad you read it.