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Soul Food: Recipes and Reflections from African-American Churches    by Joyce White order for
Soul Food
by Joyce White
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 1998 (1998)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Joyce White states in her introduction that 'When I started this cookbook, I wanted to capture the wonderful food and experiences that not only shaped my childhood, but that still remain a vital part of African-American life today. Our culinary history in this country is profound and influential: Our forebears worked this nation's great kitchens, from the White House to the plantations of the South, and after slavery they cooked in the robber barons' dining cars as the Pullmans made their way across the country. And out of the abomination of slavery came the country's most unique and distinctive cuisine and we were the masters.' She continues to inform us that food 'is a part of the spiritual life at black churches; those churchyard feasts of yesteryear have simply moved indoors.'

White collected from church members all over the United States - mothers, grandmothers, church sisters, and pastors all donated recipes and related stories about dishes. Keeping up with the times, White has met the challenge, 'in testing and modifying the recipes to preserve our rich and savory cooking methods', to keep nutrition and good health in mind. Included with the 150 recipes are lovely vignettes about the foods and the churches where they were served - two for the price of one! And those recipes! Wow! Cornbread and Buttermilk Biscuits; Sweet Potato Biscuits; Saturday Waffles and Hot-Corn Fritters. The recipe for Jollof intrigued me. Time-consuming - and don't turn down help if it's offered - but worth the effort. Everybody loves Jambalaya - most have their own recipe for it. Why not try something different. Who knows? You might like it.

Grits have never been a favorite of mine, but recipes for Corn Pudding and Creole Corn caught my eye. Baked Lima Beans get my vote. As do Sauteed Garlic Greens. Chow-Chow brings back memories of my Dad. He would have loved this recipe. And who could turn down Baked Sweet Potatoes? Fish next? There's Pan-Sauteed Curried Salmon or Barbecued Shrimp. Poultry? Try Flo's Smothered Chicken; West African Chicken; Smoked Turkey; and Lemon-Herbed Cornish Hens. Can't forget meat - Roast Pork; Rum-Glazed Spareribs; Smothered Pork Chops. And then there's always dessert: Chocolate Icing Cake; Tea Cakes; Holiday Pound Cake; and Lemon Chess Pie.

As well as the mouth-watering recipes and the short stories, good advice is given about the cooking of these recipes. Soul Food is a delightful and heart-warming book that deserves space on your cookbook shelf.

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