The Jemima Code; Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
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A food historian and journalist whose personal collection of more than 300 African-American cookbooks has been exhibited at the James Beard House, Tipton-Martin provides an illuminating look at the history of food books written by African-Americans. She seeks to dispel an array of pernicious stereotypes she has named for the minstrel show character appropriated to sell a line of pancake mix in the nineteenth century. The code “assumes that black chefs, cooks, and cookbook authors—by virtue of their race and gender—are simply born with good kitchen instincts; diminishes knowledge, skills and abilities involved in their work, and portrays them as passive and ignorant laborers incapable of culinary artistry.” Profiling more than 150 books, Tipton-Martin seeks to highlight the qualifications and contributions of their authors, placing them in historical context, and calling attention to those which either captured the issues of a particular era or broke new ground. Photos reproduce covers and pages from the books and Tipton-Martin offers as much biographical information about the authors as she can. A significant work of America food history that will surely inspire further scholarship and inquiry.