Friday, February 26, 2010

99 Years of “Good Things to Eat!”

Greetings Readers!

Usually, in every industry, there is a first or a pioneer that opens doors or begins a process or starts the ball rolling. And, I guess today’s African-American cookbook authors, Jeff Henderson and Patti Labelle owe a great thanks to Rufus Estes for being the first to publish his recipes for the general public. This month I am celebrating 99 years of “Rufus Estes’ Good Things to Eat!”

Rufus was born in 1857 as a slave and 54 years later produced a cookbook in 1911. This book contains almost 600 recipes! He offers up recipes for everything from fruit paste and lemon sherbet to mince meat and cheese soufflés. The setup of his book makes it a very easy read. . . Rufus starts with a section entitled “a sketch of my life” where he summarizes his growth through the industry starting at age 16 on to becoming the “chef of the subsidiary companies of the United States Steel Corporation in Chicago.” All in all, Rufus talks very little about topics outside of food! The next section of his book goes right into hints and suggestions for kitchen cooks followed by a “table of weights and measures.” The rest of the book is recipes. I am putting the cookbook back on our library shelves so YOU can be the next person to check it out! Plus, I’ve already read it twice.

Other writings worthy of celebrating are “Soul Food Classic Cuisine from the Deep South” by Sheila Ferguson. The section entitled “If You See It, Shoot It” has certainly piqued my interest! In fact, I’ll tell you now – it reminds me of my uncle EJ. While growing up I got a chance to try a variety of different types of foods because uncle EJ caught and cooked up almost anything that crossed his path. At any point in time, you could open his freezer and find possum, or pig’s feet, or squirrel, and some other unidentified frozen meals! “Living off the fat of the land,” a practiced belief of Ferguson’s grandfather has been a common occurrence in many African-American families.

My next selections are “African American Foodways-Explorations of History & Culture.” It is edited by Anne L. Bower who explores how in spite of its passage from West Africa; African Americans today still value the food of Africa as symbolic. Finally, in “Black Hunger”, author Doris Witt writes how food stereotypes have historically shaped debates between races. All of these books are available in our Learning Resource Center! Whether for pleasure or enlightenment - these books are great reads.

Jokima Hiller, MBA, Hospitality & Restaurant
Management Program Coordinator
Blog Editor - Dorenda Roberson, MA, Instructor

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