Black Food

Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora [A Cookbook]



Award Winner

October 19, 2021 | ISBN 9781984859730

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About the Book

A beautiful, rich, and groundbreaking book exploring Black foodways within America and around the world, curated by food activist and author of Vegetable Kingdom Bryant Terry.

WINNER OF THE ART OF EATING PRIZE • JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEE • ONE OF THE TEN BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe • ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, Time Out, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Food52, Glamour, New York Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Vice, Epicurious, Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal

“Mouthwatering, visually stunning, and intoxicating,
Black Food tells a global story of creativity, endurance, and imagination that was sustained in the face of dispersal, displacement, and oppression.”—Imani Perry, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University

In this stunning and deeply heartfelt tribute to Black culinary ingenuity, Bryant Terry captures the broad and divergent voices of the African Diaspora through the prism of food. With contributions from more than 100 Black cultural luminaires from around the globe, the book moves through chapters exploring parts of the Black experience, from Homeland to Migration, Spirituality to Black Future, offering delicious recipes, moving essays, and arresting artwork. 

As much a joyful celebration of Black culture as a cookbook, Black Food explores the interweaving of food, experience, and community through original poetry and essays, including "Jollofing with Toni Morrison" by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, "Queer Intelligence" by Zoe Adjonyoh, "The Spiritual Ecology of Black Food" by Leah Penniman, and "Foodsteps in Motion" by Michael W. Twitty. The recipes are similarly expansive and generous, including sentimental favorites and fresh takes such as Crispy Cassava Skillet Cakes from Yewande Komolafe, Okra & Shrimp Purloo from BJ Dennis, Jerk Chicken Ramen from Suzanne Barr, Avocado and Mango Salad with Spicy Pickled Carrot and Rof Dressing from Pierre Thiam, and Sweet Potato Pie from Jenné Claiborne. Visually stunning artwork from such notables as Black Panther Party creative director Emory Douglas and artist Sarina Mantle are woven throughout, and the book includes a signature musical playlist curated by Bryant.

With arresting artwork and innovative design, Black Food is a visual and spiritual feast that will satisfy any soul.
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Praise for Black Food

“It’s the kind of book that belongs both on your coffee table and in your regular kitchen rotation.”—Eater

“The book reveals the importance of food and community from diverse perspectives and encompasses Black cuisines from the Caribbean, the U.S., and across the African continent. And while cooking is central throughout, Black Food also sheds light on such issues as land access, spirituality, and the meaning of migratory patterns—chosen and unchosen.”—Wall Street Journal

The book, which brings together a chorus of voices across the Black American diaspora, shape-shifts from recipes to art to essays, and you’ll find something new every time you open the book to a different page. It’s almost hard to call it a cookbook, because you’ll be gaining more than a few recipes from it.”—Bon Appétit

“This collection of essays, visual art, playlists, poems, and recipes commissioned and curated from more than 100 chefs and spirits experts, artists, scholars, activists, journalists, and leaders feels like a holy pursuit for Terry in its faithful documentation of the rites, rituals, and history of the nourishment of Black bodies, minds, and spirits, as well as a pulpit from which to share the gospel of self and community care. But unlike an ecclesiastical relic—hidebound, carved in stone, set out of reach—Terry means this book to be a living, evolving thing, accessible to all.”—Food & Wine

Black Food is a cookbook, and a delight to use as such (think Peach Hand Pies, Okra and Shrimp Purloo, and Jerk Chicken Ramen), but more important, it’s a testament to diverse cultures around the world and their foodways that includes literature about resources, agriculture, cooking and community. Food activist and writer Terry (‘Vegetable Kingdom’) adds generous dollops of joy, too.”—Washington Post

“Food activist Terry’s Black Food reaches well beyond the scope of a cookbook, bringing together essays, poems, illustrations, stories, and recipes to pay homage to Black culinary art.”Alta Journal

Black Food is simply gorgeous. Mouthwatering, visually stunning, and intoxicating, Black Food tells a global story of creativity, endurance, and imagination that was sustained in the face of dispersal, displacement, and oppression.”—Imani Perry, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University

“Food activist Terry’s Black Food reaches well beyond the scope of a cookbook, bringing together essays, poems, illustrations, stories, and recipes to pay homage to Black culinary art.”—Alta Journal

“Numerous books of this kind have been published in the last few years, and this one outshines them all, particularly because of Bryant’s acute vision of bringing together a mix of voices and people who form this distinct, yet loose definition of Black Food.”—Edward Lee, chef and author of Buttermilk Graffiti and Smoke and Pickles

“Black Food is an important and necessary book, a kaleidoscopic, almost dizzying vision of the foods of the African Diaspora that not only connects Africa and the US but reaches out to the Caribbean and Brazil. I hear the voices of a complex community of Black cooks and food writers—some seasoned professionals, others enthusiastic newcomers—who have each made sense of the African Diaspora in their own terms. Black Food is a trailblazing book on the crossroad of time and space and imbued with the irreverent eclecticism of Afrofuturism.”—Maricel Presilla, chef, culinary historian, and author of Peppers of the Americas

“The diverse cooking of delicious food inspired by all parts of the Americas, Africa, and other influences make this book one of the most important of this generation.”—Todd Richards, author of Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes and owner of Lake & Oak Neighborhood BBQ and Soul: Food and Culture

“Black Food showcases the profound world of Black culture and its influence. A very important addition to this year’s offerings, historic.”—Frank Stitt, author of Frank Stitt’s Southern Table and owner of Highlands Bar and Grill and Bottega

“This exuberant work cooked up by James Beard Award–winning chef Terry is way more than a notable collection of recipes. Stuffed with essays, poetry, and artwork from a cast of brilliant creatives with their finger on the pulse of Black culture and the culinary world, it sweeps readers from West Africa to Jamaica to New York with sumptuous stories that feed the soul.”Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2021—Lifestyle”

“Whether read straight through or browsed section by section, this meaningful book brings Black foodways into focus and will leave a lasting impact.”—Library Journal
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Black Food


“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.” —Audre Lorde

Black Food is a communal shrine to the shared culinary histories of the African diaspora. These pages offer up gratitude to the great chain of Black lives, and to all the sustaining ingredients and nourishing traditions they carried and remembered, through time and space, to deliver their kin into the future. Every one of us who came together to make this book invoked sacred energies to support the creation of a beautiful, delicious, and thought-provoking compendium. We pray that this collection facilitates reflection on and veneration of our sacred foodways.

Recipes are the through line of Black Food. Without being overly prescriptive, I asked brilliant colleagues to offer dishes that embody their approach to cooking and draw on history and memory while looking forward. I encourage you to make many recipes in this book and create space for meaningful, visceral experiences. Trust me, the food will provide more sustenance, more nourishment, more health, more pleasure, and more life. But that’s not all. Black Food also includes moving visual art, thought-provoking essays, and imaginative poetry that will encourage spiritual and intellectual exploration, renewal, and growth.

We seek, in these pages, to promote a concept of food that embraces courage, commitment, and self-discovery, and ultimately moves each and all of us to a better place. In my graduate school advisor Robin D.G. Kelley’s 1994 essay collection Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora, I discovered a profound rumination by the late South African scholar-activist Bernard Magubane. Diasporic consciousness arose from “a determined effort on the part of Black people to rediscover their shrines from the wreckage of history.” In this book—this altar—we lay out, and lay on it, the collective weight, the push of experiences and traditions of the African diaspora, the movement of Black bodies and Black food far and wide, from pre-Columbian voyages out of Africa to the violent dislocations of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism.

This collection also urges us to stop and dive deeply into the politics of pleasure, of rest—as in Tricia Hersey’s concept of the Nap Ministry and R&R as resistance—and of Black leisure, whether stretching out to chill and sip “beautiful” drinks in the afternoon at Oakland’s Red Bay Coffee or strolling through Paris all evening with nowhere specific to be, brushing dirt off one’s shoulder like the flyest flâneur. We subscribe to the philosophies of Toni Morrison, a joyful warrior wielding her quill and freedom dreaming, insisting we shut out the nightmarish distractions of racism. We let Morrison show us how, with a fresh pair of eyes, we can perceive a world full of love, light, peace, pleasure, and rewards previously denied. We are grateful for Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s remembrance, “Jollofing with Toni Morrison,” and for Penguin Random House editor Porscha Burke’s wealth of wisdom and experience, whether in guiding the 35th anniversary reissue of Morrison’s groundbreaking Black Book (a major inspiration for the volume before you) or the reissue of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

In our “Black, Queer, Food” chapter, we are fortunate to witness the most profound dialogue by and about our diaspora’s most marginalized, and most resilient and brilliant, community: Ebony Derr, Lazarus Lynch, Zoe Adjonyoh, and Leigh Gaymon-Jones lead us in a timely conversation about how LGBTQ activism is the vanguard of creating vibrant culture, love, and kinship out of disruption and rejection. Crucial to us thriving is creating the broadest table, with seats reserved for all of our people throughout the diaspora. Like the Black men depicted in Kerry James Marshall’s Garden Project—a series of large-scale paintings set in Chicago’s South Side—we should all weed, rake, and dig deeply to uproot attitudes and habits that marginalize, reject, or erase any of us.

The many mansions of Black food have always had—and will always have—room for everyone. As our clear-sighted Black liberation activist Anna Julia Cooper insisted, each soul can and should decide when and where they enter into this rich tradition. Our aim in Black Food is to maintain this practice of openness, to encourage the sharing of these journeys and discoveries across the diaspora at large. Black Food is rich with points of connection, in which the reader can engage with and perhaps more deeply appreciate the many-colored threads in this diasporic epic of Black exodus and redemption.

Each chapter and verse, each poem, photograph, painting, think-piece, and recipe is a portal to beloved communities of plants and animals, food and pleasures, leisures, tastes, and cultures across many eras. Learn how to make sacred spaces suited to your own home and kitchen, at your own pace of growth. Perhaps you will begin with something simple and soothing like Krystal Mack’s update on traditional Yoruba okra baths. Or you may be drawn to more elaborate practices, as with Latham Thomas’s and Jocelyn Jackson’s guidelines for intentional ritual creation, altar making, and seed weaving.

Black Food is an offering in which the contributors, whether chefs, artists, activists, scholars, journalists, or poets, seek to honor a pantheon of revered ancestors: we deify Octavia Butler in “Caring for the Whole Through This Black Body,” adrienne maree brown’s introduction to our chapter on Radical Self-Care. Audre Lorde’s life and legacy are writ large across that chapter’s focus on defining, nurturing, and defending one’s self, as are other spiritual forebears like bell hooks and Cedric Robinson. We stand on iconic shoulders, like those of Black liberation theologians Reverends James H. Cone and Albert Cleage, in our chapter on Spirituality. Intellectual titans like W.E.B. Du Bois inform deeply personal reflections like “Beyond the Tree Line,” Rashad Frazier’s return to his native North Carolina’s rural spaces, disrupting the racist histories of color-lines.

With Thérèse Nelson and Rahanna Bisseret Martinez, we give thanks to visionaries like Lena Richard and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, whose prescient critiques of the US evolution from domestic food work to professional kitchens help us find footing for Black creativity and entrepreneurship in a booming food media landscape. With Tracye McQuirter and Fred Opie, we cherish Dick Gregory, who, in the tradition of prophetic truth-tellers like Elijah Muhammad, Peter Tosh, Coretta Scott King, and KRS-One, aggressively rejected the toxic food traditions of slavery, colonialism, and industrialized food systems.

In “Land, Liberation & Food Justice” and “Black Women, Food & Power,” inspired by the ingenuity of celebrated grassroots organizers like Fannie Lou Hamer and Georgia Gilmore, our contributors Monica White, Charlene Carruthers, and Psyche Williams-Forson explore how Black folk fought for life and liberty by leveraging fecund land and delicious food. In the names of these ancestors we claim and reclaim radical models of food, health, and wellness for Black communities, revolutionary not only in their newness, but also in their rootedness in ancient African traditions.

This book is a Sankofa bird, standing astride the crossroads of past and present, with a neck craning back to what came before, measuring our progress. Its feet point toward what is to come, with an egg signifying the future held protectively in her beak. To paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston, the present is an egg laid by the past that has the future inside of its shell. Black Food represents a bridge from our ties to traditions in the Motherland to our wildest dreams that will manifest in the future.

Black Food is meant to live alongside you not only on coffee tables, credenzas, and night stands. Toss it in your bag, satchel, purse, or on the passenger seat, and ride out to your local farmers’ market and grocery store. Level-up your skills with practical cooking know-how shared by our brilliant chefs. Expand your African diasporic cooking repertoire and impress your family and friends. Pass it around at cookouts, barbecues, and family reunions. Like Black people, this book contains multitudes.

About the Author

Bryant Terry
Bryant Terry is an NAACP Image Award winner and a James Beard Award-winning chef and educator and the author of Afro-Vegan and Vegetable Kingdom. He is renowned for his activism and efforts to create a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system. He is currently the chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, where he creates programming that celebrates the intersection of food, farming, health, activism, art, culture, and the African Diaspora. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Washington Post and on CBS This Morning and on NPR's All Things Considered. San Francisco magazine included Bryant among the 11 Smartest People in the Bay Area Food Scene and Fast Company named him one of 9 People Who Are Changing the Future of Food. More by Bryant Terry
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