The recipes are good. They are simple, elegant and refined, like the family sharing its history through food. The preface describes the book as telling the story of five kitchens and three generations of women. “Mother-daughter duo” Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams use the book to share stories from the kitchen, a place that could be both forboding and a place of great calm, depending upon one’s generation (e.g. slavery) and one’s location (e.g. north vs. south). Traditional, mostly southern recipes, are reworked. Flavoring agents like bacon dripping, ham hocks, and butter are replaced by olive oil, or no oil at all. But fear not. As I told my big brother, a traditional southern cook, flavors have been retained if not indeed heightened with the liberal use of spices. My favorite recipes were the simplest like the Warm Onion and Rosemary Salad, Herb-Roasted Salmon Fillet, Fiery Green Beans and Links Salad composed of green beans, green peas, cucumber and basil.
There’s a Homemade Peanut Butter recipe. The authors describe peanut butter “as a bass note that can carry a wide variety of top notes” and encourage users, once comfortable with the basic recipe, to add spices. Be creative. Set no limits. It’s a sentiment that fits the family.
Many of the book’s recipes from Mama’s Tequila Ice to Eggplant Tower with Mashed White Beans open with brief headnotes that describe the family connection to the dish. Whether its a variation on a meal served while hosting parties during the Harlem Renaissance or a reworking of a meal had as family members traveled overseas in Yugoslavia, each recipe clearly has meaning.
While its an eclectic mix of recipes, overall the book is quite a culinary inspiration. The recipes don’t begin until page 80. Those first seventy-nine pages are a poetic examination of five kitchens, and American history, beginning with Minnie Randall (1897-1976) through Caroline Randall Williams (b. 1987). Reviewing the book has reawakened my desire to ask family members about their memories of food past and what they’d like to cook in the future. You don’t need to be of African American heritage to enjoy this book. It’s an American experience that can be shared, quite deliciously, by all.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.
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