This is as much not a cookbook as it is a cookbook. There are certainly recipes, and interesting ones at that. But if recipes are all you’re looking for, you’ll be missing the point with Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen.
Three Black men collaborate on Ghetto Gastro, an on-going project which uses food, visual arts, music, fashion, and activism to showcase and expand ideas about what it is to be set aside from mainstream culture. For the sake of this particular book, it’s noteworthy that two, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker, are formally trained chefs.
They bring insightful, rigorous treatment to their use of ingredients commonly found in Black kitchens, dehydrating sweet potato and serving it in a vibrant cucumber and pepper juice to riff on Bajan souse, a dish traditionally made with pork. Their version of the well-known chopped cheese sandwich uses plant-based meat and cheese: they called it chopped stease.
The book is equally rich in explorations of overlooked history and cultural connections, as well as in original art and photography. There are also insightful headnotes. Writing about chopped cheese’s sudden adoption by wider culture, they note, “Some of us Black folks looked up to see a product of our environment appear in news stories as if it just got invented, a relentless American refrain."
Ghetto Gastro Presents Black Power Kitchen documents a complex, evolving aspect of urban Black cooking. Its authors are eager to record and to help shape that evolution. The book is a significant contribution and we’re confident that decades from now cooks and historians will be fascinated by what it has to say about American cooking.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.