I love soul food! I recently checked out a few soul food cookbooks from the library. So I thought I would put together a quick list of old and new cookbooks by Black chefs. Soul food recipes are steeped in tradition. They include knowledge handed down through generations. As a traditionalist when it comes to soul food, I tend to stick with the old school recipes. However, I am slowly becoming more open to the new school and fusion-inspired recipes that young chefs have been developing. Regardless of your stance, there is something here for both the traditionalist cook and the fusion artist.
The Story Behind the Recipe
One thing that I love is actually reading cookbooks, as in I love ones that have stories that accompany recipes. In the list below you will find a mix of both traditional cookbooks like Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook and narrative cookbooks like Hallelujah! The Welcome Table. As someone who is interested in food history, I love the commentary chefs include with their recipes.
QOTD: Do you like to read narrative cookbooks or use them strictly to cook?
Soul Food Cookbooks Reading List
Here are a few soul food cookbooks both old and new to check out this month and all year long. Most of these are from my personal cookbook library. A few are from a recent library haul.
- Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes: Maya Angelou was renowned in her wide and generous circle of friends as a marvelous chef. Her kitchen was a social center. From fried meat pies, chicken livers, and beef Wellington to caramel cake, bread pudding, and chocolate éclairs, the one hundred-plus recipes included here are all tried and true, and come from Angelou’s heart and her home.
- In Pursuit of Flavor: The Beloved Classic Cookbook from the Acclaimed Author of The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis: A cookbook that shares the recipes of her childhood, spent in a Virginia farming community founded by her grandfather and his friends after emancipation, as well as those that made her one of the most revered American chefs of all time.
- Fix Me a Plate: Traditional and New School Soul Food Recipes from Scotty Scott of Cook Drank Eat by Scotty Scott: A deep dive into the delicious world of soul food, showcasing traditional recipes as well as awe-inspiring remixes on the classics. Learn the history behind how these iconic dishes came to be so embedded in soulful southern culture, and follow along as Scotty tells the heartwarming, sometimes side-splitting stories of how they were interwoven into his family history and childhood.
- Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora by Bryant Terry: Bryant Terry captures the broad and divergent voices of the African Diaspora through the prism of food. With contributions from more than 100 Black cultural luminaires from around the globe, the book moves through chapters exploring parts of the Black experience.
- The Get ‘Em Girls’ Guide to the Power of Cuisine by Shakara Bridget’s, Jeniece Isley, and Joan A. Davis: While some may think it’s a cliché, maybe the way to a lover’s heart is still through his stomach. But who has time to be chained to a stove? Just like having an extra job skill can help you get hired, someone willing to invest a little time and energy into a relationship definitely stands out in a crowded dating field. (This is one of my FAVORITE Cookbooks!!!!)
- The Get ‘Em Girls Guide to the Perfect Get-Together by Shakara Bridget’s, Jeniece Isley, and Joan A. Davis: Who is a Get ‘Em Girl? She’s a smart, savvy urban professional with a great job, loyal friends, and plenty of style. Still, the working world can really limit time with loved ones and the big city can get very lonely. But here’s a well-known fact: Cooking for special ones is more meaningful (and cheaper) than dining out.
- Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes by Pamela Strobel: Princess Pamela ruled a small realm, but her powers ranged far and wide. Her speakeasy-style restaurant in Manhattan was for three decades a hip salon, with regulars from Andy Warhol to Diana Ross. Her iconic Southern dishes influenced chefs nationwide, and her cookbook became a bible for a generation who yearned for the home cooking left behind in the Great Migration. One of the earliest books to coin soul food, this touchstone of African-American cuisine fell out of print more than forty years ago.
No Chicken Soup for The Soul?