Cooking up Connection: 19 Recipes That Honor Black Cookbook Authors
Every June, many Black American families gather to celebrate Juneteenth with outdoor activities, music, reflection, and food. Juneteenth commemorates when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Juneteenth is a merging of the words/date June nineteenth, marking the date in 1865.
For years, there was advocacy to make Juneteenth a national holiday and in 2021, more than a century-and-a-half later, the United States designated Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Creating connection through food is at the core of many Black celebratory and solemn spaces. And in many ways, Juneteenth is a combination of the two. While Juneteenth is a celebration marking the end of slavery, it is also a space for the telling and retelling of our ongoing resistance and struggle. Food is an integral piece of telling the duality of that story.
To continue those food traditions, Eat the Culture is celebrating Juneteenth with our annual virtual potluck. This year, 19 Black culinary creators are honoring Black American cookbook authors by recreating their recipes, amplifying their work, and sharing our connections to Freedom Day.
The book: Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day by Rodney Scott
The culinary creator: Marwin Brown of @foodfidelity
“I chose Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ because I identify with the struggle of being a traditionalist while championing nonconformity in all aspects of life. Brother Scott demonstrates in order to grow as a pitmaster, father, leader, businessman, etc. you not only have to work extremely hard and go beyond your comfort zone, but you also have to make really hard choices including leaving parts of your past behind. Facing the duality of this everyday struggle excites me as I try to authentically honor my ancestors while challenging my peers to be progressive.”
“I chose Jenné Claiborne’s Sweet Potato Soul because I’m inspired by her mission to infuse plant-based foods with traditional Southern flair. Jenné’s vegan soul food recipes are simple, creative and wildly delicious with a modern, healthy twist on classic dishes. I chose to make her Purple and White Potato Salad because in black families, only the best cooks are allowed to bring the potato salad to the cookout and hers did not disappoint!”
“When I think about freedom and the Black food experience, I feel that visibility, expression, and innovation are extremely important. As a member of LGBTQ+ community, Son of a Southern Chef was one of the first cookbooks I had the pleasure of purchasing from a Black chef from my community. His vibrant and whimsical photography and inventive takes on recipes of his childhood showcase how he is able to bring his full self to his food. The authenticity and heart that he brings to each of his recipes have empowered me to be more bold and unapologetic in the content I bring forth.”
“Before there was a Julia Child or Martha Stewart, there was Lena Richard, a trailblazing culinary hero with an empire that spans restaurants, catering, frozen food, television, and education. I want to pay homage to her legacy and book, the New Orleans Cookbook, because of her achievements in celebrating the black roots of Creole cooking throughout her work.”
The book: The Red Rooster Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson
The culinary creators: Tatanisha & Derrick Worthey of @thiswortheylife
“Like most folk in the know, my introduction to Marcus Samuelsson came from watching him on the Food Network. Every time I saw him, it was easy to pick up on how passionate he was about food. Marcus is what I like to call a ‘chef of the African diaspora’ in that he has a flair for infusing African-based cultural food references into a style of cooking that is uniquely his own.
“By doing so, Chef Samuelsson elevates his cooking, broadens our collective palates, and furthers the conversation regarding the rich history of Black food. My wife, Tatanisha, and I visited his Harlem-based Red Rooster restaurant in 2019, and after the first bite, my respect for this James Beard award-winning chef was set in stone. Marcus’s African roots are the connective tissue that has solidified my admiration for who and what he is. Further, after reading his Yes, Chef: A Memoir (2013), I developed a broader sense of what makes Chef Marcus tick and what drives him. So, when my Eat The Culture fam approached me to be a part of this year’s Juneteenth celebration, it was an easy sell. My cocktail contribution was inspired by the Rum Rum Punch taken from Marcus Samuelsson’s The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem (2016). With the addition of dried hibiscus flowers, I have created a cocktail worthy of being shared with friends and family as we celebrate this year’s Juneteenth. So, let’s raise a glass. Cheers!”
“Jubilee is a celebration of culture and foods and how they intersect in taste, flavor, joy, and love. From the beautiful dishes to delectable baked goods, I’ve made my fair share of recipes from this book, and would be remiss not to celebrate this treasury of food for Juneteenth. This book embodies freedom through culinary expression and is the perfect culmination of recipes to rejoice!”
“I’ve followed Vallery’s work for a while now, and I love the way way she connects her incredible recipes to the story of her family history, her childhood in Louisiana, her life as a practicing attorney in Manhattan, and her remarkable determination to find success in food media. And especially as a fellow attorney-turned-baking blogger, Life Is What You Bake It was such an inspiring read. I chose to make a 6-inch cake version of Vallery’s Red Velvet Sheet Cake, linking her baking history with the Juneteenth tradition as a whole, and with my own love for small-batch cakes!”
“I chose Cooking Solo because it was one of the first Black-owned cookbooks I purchased for myself and it really helped me in grad school. Klancy’s recipes are so creative, and it showed me that meals for one do not have to be boring, unhealthy, or overly complicated. Her recipes and this cookbook were a very early inspiration for what is now Coined Cuisine!”
“Kevin Bludso’s new cookbook, Bludso’s BBQ: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul, resonated with us because not only are they Southern barbecue enthusiasts, but Krysten’s mother also grew up in Compton, California — the same city where Kevin was born and raised. Described as a love letter to the city, Kevin explains in his new book how he learned to barbecue by visiting his great aunt, “Granny” in Texas every summer. This resonated with Marrekus, who spent summers as a child at his grandfather’s in Mississippi, where he would fill buckets of butter beans, purple hull peas, and collard greens that had been planted on his family’s land. Kevin’s memoir truly is a family affair, which makes it even more special to us as a husband-and-wife team.”
“I chose Watermelon and Red Birds because it is a celebration of Juneteenth foods. Nicole A. Taylor blends storytelling, history, and world-class cooking in a cookbook that I hope to pass down through generations!”
“I identify with Charity’s story. Like Charity, I am examining the health benefits of plant-based eating by slowly incorporating more fresh vegetables into my diet. The recipes in Unbelievably Vegan use spices and sauces to build flavor. Her methods make eating plant-based fulfilling and enjoyable. Charity teaches us how to make classic home-cooked dishes using vegan ingredients, from creamy macaroni and cheese to gooey caramel-covered sticky buns.”
“I chose chef Kwame Onwauchi’s cookbook, My America, because he is an amazing culinary professional who advocates for diverse cuisines and voices. His debut cookbook is educational, soulful, and reflective of African and Caribbean traditions. I was excited to be chosen to highlight his work for this Juneteenth celebration. I have been a fan of his since he was a contestant on Top Chef, one of my favorite culinary shows. Cooking his Jamaican Beef Patty was an honor and I learned so much about this dish’s history because of him.”
“This Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Spicy Vegetable Relish is inspired by Hawa Hassan’s Chakalaka and Cheddar Braaibroodjies recipe from In Bibi’s Kitchen. I believe this is a great recipe to bring to the Juneteenth celebration. I was an ambassador for the City of New Orleans in Durban, South Africa, and I connected with the culture instantly.”
“This year I had the honor to be assigned Grandbaby Cakes cookbook and I couldn’t be more thrilled. When I initially started blogging, Jocelyn was one of the few black food bloggers I was aware of. I immediately fell in love with her recipes after trying her amazing Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Pound Cake. I am so inspired by her and her work and I’m honored that I get to represent her Red Velvet Cake in this year’s Juneteenth lineup. She was actually one of the first bloggers that made me believe that I could actually turn my passion into a career. I am constantly inspired by her and all she continues to accomplish.”
“I fell in love with Cheryl Day’s cookbook the moment I read her dedication: ‘To pay homage to all of the enslaved women who didn’t get credit for their recipes because they couldn’t read or write.’ This cookbook has more than delicious recipes. The narratives and stories elevate this cookbook to an oral history of Southern baking. I can’t imagine a more perfect cookbook for a Juneteenth celebration. My pig pickin’ cake is a nod to an authentic Southern summer BBQ dessert.”
“I chose Carla Hall’s Soul Food by Carla Hall because Carla is an amazing chef who has a Southern background that is reflected in her food. I also have a Southern background, so her cooking and baking resonates with me. Carla Hall is someone who I have followed from Top Chef to The Chew and now on Food Network. I had the pleasure of being on an episode of the Chew as a judge four years ago, and seeing her in person was the highlight of my career. For me, choosing her book was a no-brainer. Her cooking style embodies the soulful recipes of the Juneteenth celebration and I am so honored to be able to recreate her blackberry peach crumble pie.”
“When I think of the quote ‘I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams’ I think of culinarian Michael Twitty, his documented culinary journey in The Cooking Gene — spanning from America to Africa — and the telling of our ancestors’ story in a way that had not been told before. As I started to become more interested in my family’s generational ways of cooking, his book was a huge inspiration in my own culinary journey, which ultimately goes beyond cooking food. It’s a journey about embracing the history of my family, honoring the kin I have never known and those I may never meet, and basking in the connection Black food has across the diaspora and beyond.”
The book: Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry
The culinary creator: Marta Rivera Diaz of @senseandedibility
“Bryant Terry’s Black Food is an anthology of the heart. He’s managed to curate a collection of writings and recipes that makes the reader feel as though they’re at a worldwide family reunion. This Grape Tarragon Spritzer has a delicate yet bold flavor that is symbolic of the Black culture. We’re not shy about living out loud.”
“Bryant Terry’s All-Green Everything Salad from his Vegetable Kingdom cookbook is a tasty, vibrant, healthful addition to a Juneteeth cookout. It’s perfect to serve alongside richer dishes to balance them out. It’s also light, but filling enough to enjoy on its own.”