edna lewis

A few literary suggestions for Black History Month

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Originally posted by imnot12

Maybe you know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from when Beyoncé sampled her TEDx talk, “We should all be feminists,” or maybe you’ve been following her emergence as one of the most prominent voices of African literature over the last two decades. Her latest novel, Americanah, was selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013.

Edna Lewis

Originally posted by robtrujilloart

Edna Lewis had a hell of a career. She worked her way up as a seamstress, eventually fashioning a dress for Marilyn Monroe. Then she became the first African-American celebrity chef. Then she broke her leg, so she wrote a cookbook. The Taste of Country Cooking was interspersed with personal stories of growing up in a freed-slave settled town in Virginia, and redefined what many thought of Southern food.  

Roxane Gay

Originally posted by lastnightsreading

Roxane Gay (@roxanegay), famed author of Bad Feminist, is a Tumblr favorite, and not just because you can follow her. She writes about what it means to be a woman of color. She’s the first Black woman to write for Marvel, and she’s writing queer WOC into their storylines. She pulled her unreleased book from publishers Simon & Schuster after their deal with Milo Yiannopoulos was announced. It’s easy to admire her actions as much as her writing. 

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Don’t miss our upcoming BHM Answer Times. This week and next week, we have:

Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking
The chef and author made the case for black Southern cooking as the foundation of our national cuisine. Does she get the credit she deserves?
By Francis Lam

The chef and author made the case for black Southern cooking as the foundation of our national cuisine. Does she get the credit she deserves?

This is an oustanding piece about an incredibly important person in black American history and foodways.

Breakfast was about the best part of the day. There was an almost mysterious feeling about passing through the night and awakening to a new day. everyone greeted each other in the morning with gladness and a real sense of gratefulness to see the new day. If it was a particularly beautiful morning it was expressed in the grace. Spring would bring our first and just about only fish - shad. It would always be served for breakfast, soaked in salt water for an hour or so, rolled in sesoned cornmeal, and fried carefully in home-rendered lard with a slice of smoked shoulder for added flavor. There were crispy fried white potatoes, fried onions, batter bread, any food left over from supper, blackberry jelly, delicious hot coffee, and cocoa for the children. And perhaps if a neighbor dropped in, dandelion wine was added. With the morning feeling of the animals out of the way, breakfast was enjoyable and leisurely.
—  Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking

This peach cobbler is quintessential Edna Lewis in all its Southern-summer deliciousness. The nutmeg sauce provides an unusual and appropriately old-fashioned accompaniment. I adapted the cobbler (mine has less sugar and less butter) from her book The Taste of Country Cooking. The recipe also appears in a slightly different form in In Pursuit of Flavor, where she remembers, “With the first juicy, sweet peaches of summer, we always made cobbler.” For Lewis, the whole point of this dessert is to taste sweet, fresh peaches–nothing else. She suggests using the sweetest fruit you can find and recommends the nutmeg Sauce, but admits that growing up, “we would just spoon the juice from the peaches up over the cobbler which is good too.”

The cobbler is well-matched with vanilla ice cream a la mode, as recommended in The Joy of Cooking, which describes cobblers as “simply deep-dish single-crusted fruit pies,” with the cruse “usually on the top, though occasionally… on the bottom.” It goes on to state, “Cobblers used to be made with pie dough, but a sweet rich biscuit dough is more common today.” Lewis’s pie-dough cobbler has the unusual aspect of both a bottom and a top crust, its slightly salty crunch intensifying the peach flavor even further. Introducing her recipe, Lewis notes, “In Virginia it is traditional to weave a lattice top pastry over the fruit, which is piled generously into a deep pie plate and mounded a little in the center.”

Edna Lewis’ Peach Cobbler
Serves 6 to 8


Butter Pie Pastry (recipe follows), lightly chilled
8 large ripe but still firm peaches (or substitute nectarines)
¾ cup sugar mixed with a pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter cut into thin slices
Nutmeg Sauce (recipe follows)


1. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. Divide the pastry disk in half. Roll one half between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to fit in the baking dish; line the pan with the dough, pressing it gently into the sides, bottom, and corners of the pan. Trim the overlapping dough from around the edges. Refrigerate the lined pan until ready to use, at least 30 minutes. Several hours or overnight will provide an even more tender crust.

3. Roll out the other piece of dough into a 9-inch square; cut twelve 9-inch strips, each about ¾ inch wide. Place the strips between wax paper and refrigerate them.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

5. Peel the peaches (peeling is unnecessary if using nectarines) with a vegetable peeler or by dipping each one in boiling water for 20 to 60 seconds, refreshing in cold water, then slipping the skin off. Remove the put and slice each peach into 8 wedges.

6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar-salt mixture over the dough in the pan. Mound the peaches in the middle. Sprinkle all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar mixture over them and distribute the butter slices evenly over the top.

7. Weave the pastry strips into a lattice by placing one lengthwise and then one crosswise, spacing them evenly, until they are all used. Moisten the ends of the strips with cold water and press them into the crust sides to seal. Don’t worry if they break. Just patch them back together as best you can.

8. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar mixture over the lattice.

9. Place the baking dish in the middle of the preheated oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 425. Bake until the crust is deep golden and the fruit juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving with the nutmeg sauce, if desired.

Note: Miss Lewis’s cobbler is quite runny. You’ll need a spoon to scoop up all of the delicious juices. If you want a “fork only” version, toss a tablespoon of cornstarch or 2 tablespoons of instant tapioca with the fruit before placing it in the crust.

Butter Pie Pastry
Makes enough for 1 (8-in) double-crust cobbler


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
18 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces


1. Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.

2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of very coarse cornmeal.

3. With the motor running, add 3/8 cup ice water all at once and pulse just until combined. If too dry to come together, pulse in another 1 to 3 teaspoons of ice water. The dough should not become a solid mass. (This can also be done with a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers, but I find the food processor just as useful a method.)

4. Form the dough into a ball. Dusts with flour and form into a flat cake. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before continuing with the recipe

Nutmeg Sauce


2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup boiling water
2 inch piece dried orange peel (see note) or substitute 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest or 1/8 teaspoon orange oil
3 tablespoons brandy


1. Mix the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and nutmeg together in a small saucepan.

2. Whisk in the boiling water, add the orange peel, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

3. Cool a bit before stirring in the brandy.

4. Warm before serving but do not boil.

(Note: I like adding a tablespoon of heavy cream while reheating. To dry the orange peel: Scrape all the white from the pieces of peel and dry on a rack for several days or until dry. Store for up to a month in a lidded jar.)

When Lewis was growing up in Freetown, she learned that there was a season truly perfect for frying chickens — late spring to early summer, when the birds were the right size and had the right feed — just as there was a season for peaches and a season for blackberries. Foods, Lewis argued, are always temporal, so all good tastes are special. And when you have only a few chances every year to make something, you make it well. You use home-rendered lard to cook the bird. You brown the breasts first, then lay them on top of the sizzling legs so that they finish cooking gently in the heat above the pan. You slip in a slice of country ham to season the fat. That’s how you give thanks for it.

Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking

I’m really thinking of doing some cliche julia/julie shit over the summer and blog and cook a bunch of food over the summer from Black cook books and document the experience on a separate blog.

I just bought bunch of cookbooks, Edna Lewis, Pamela Strobel, Michael W Twitty etc.

I’m excited. I love food

Before Annie Leibovitz and Margaret Bourke-White, there was Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870–1942). A pioneer of photojournalism in the late 1880s and early 1900s, Beals is recognized as the first woman photographer hired on a newspaper staff. In 1902, after she had proven herself as an accomplished freelance photographer (and taught her husband the trade), Beals joined the staff of The Buffalo Inquirer. But she didn’t stay long. She left her post at the paper after 18 months to attend the St. Louis World’s Fair with her husband Alfred. Jessie had to push officials at the fair to give her a photography permit, and once she did she became an accredited photographer for the New York Herald and other papers. During her six months at the fair, she became something of a celebrity herself, taking pictures of luminaries such as President Theodore Roosevelt and his oldest son, Theodore Jr. Following her success in St. Louis, Jessie was ready to take on New York. In 1905, she and her husband moved to Manhattan and eventually set up their own studio; Jessie took pictures, while Alfred managed the business. Hustling for clients, Jessie went so far as to write to prominent people who were listed in the Social Register and offer to take their portraits without charge. Her labor paid off. The business survived, and in 1906, she and other women photographers were featured in a group show sponsored by the Camera Club of Hartford, Conn. In the show’s announcement, Beals was singled out for special recognition. But all was not well on the home front. While Jessie enjoyed the bohemian life in Greenwich Village—where she was friendly with Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O’Neill, and other artists—her husband was more reclusive. They began to lead separate lives, and by the time Jessie gave birth to her daughter Nanette, in 1911, there was some dispute whether Alfred was the child’s father, though he doted on her throughout his life. In an era when most women chose children or careers, Beals managed both, however imperfectly. Nanette was often cared for by friends or shipped off to boarding school, and mother and daughter didn’t live together until the daughter was 17. Ultimately, though, the daughter was loyal to her mother, publicizing her work and arranging for posthumous exhibitions and publications. Beginning in 1982, Nanette Beals Brainerd gave all of her mother’s papers and pictures to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, where they’re available today to scholars and others interested in women’s history. Jenny Gotwals, lead manuscript cataloger at the Schlesinger, who processed Beals’s papers and photographs, points out that—unlike most photographers—Beals didn’t specialize in one area but took news photos, interior portraits, street scenes, and garden and house pictures. In Gotwals’ view, the photographer was indomitable. “She just soldiered on and did what she needed to do. That’s how she was able to accomplish so much.”


Johnny Nicholson in his Midtown Manhattan restaurant, the Café Nicholson in 1949. Café Nicholson, served as a gathering place for the artists and celebrities known as “the New Bohemians” in the 1950s and ’60s.

At the table from left, the ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, the novelist Donald Windham, the painter Buffie Johnson, the playwright Tennessee Williams and the writer Gore Vidal at Café Nicholson in Manhattan in 1949. In the background is Virginia Reed, a waitress.

Mr. Nicholson, an antiques dealer and interior designer, opened the first Café Nicholson in 1948 on 58th Street near Third Avenue, near where he and his romantic partner, the photographer Karl Bissinger, ran an antiques store. At the time, it was a neighborhood of cheap brownstones and photographers’ studios.

Inspired by the Caffè Greco in Rome, he planned to offer coffee and pastries, but the chef Edna Lewis, a self-taught cook from Virginia and a close friend, convinced him that a full-fledged restaurant was a better idea. He offered her a place behind the stove and a 50-50 partnership in the business, giving her her first exposure in New York. She would go on to write cookbooks that made her one of America’s foremost exponents of traditional Southern cuisine.

Mr. Nicholson decorated the interior in a spirit of mad eclecticism, combining trash-bin chic with florid romanticism, a look he once described as “fin de siècle Caribbean of Cuba style.”

Mr. Nicholson died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 99.

More here - via: The New York Times