Cover image for Soul Food Love [electronic resource] : Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family
Soul Food Love [electronic resource] : Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family
Randall, Alice; Williams, Caroline Randall.
-- New York TimesSoul Food Love relates the authors’ fascinating family history (which mirrors that of much of black America in the twentieth century), explores the often fraught relationship African-American women have had with food, and forges a powerful new way forward that honors their cultural and culinary heritage.
Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale,
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NAACP Image Award Winner

A mother-daughter duo reclaims and redefines soul food by mining the traditions of four generations of black women and creating 80 healthy recipes to help everyone live longer and stronger.

After bestselling author Alice Randall penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Black Women and Fat," chronicling her quest to be "the last fat black woman" in her family, she turned to her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, for help. Together they overhauled the way they cook and eat, translating recipes and traditions handed down by generations of black women into easy, affordable, and healthful--yet still indulgent--dishes, such as Peanut Chicken Stew, Red Bean and Brown Rice Creole Salad, Fiery Green Beans, and Sinless Sweet Potato Pie. Soul Food Love relates the authors' fascinating family history (which mirrors that of much of black America in the twentieth century), explores the often fraught relationship African-American women have had with food, and forges a powerful new way forward that honors their cultural and culinary heritage.

Author Notes

ALICE RANDALL is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Wind Done Gone, Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, Rebel Yell, and Ada's Rules and the only person to ever study with Julia Child for credit at Harvard. An acknowledged authority on African-American cookbooks, Randall teaches at Vanderbilt University. She also writes country music, including Trisha Yearwood's now classic "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)." Randall has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a Health Champion and is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Nashville Ambassador.

CAROLINE RANDALL WILLIAMS, an award-winning published poet and Harvard graduate. She spent two years teaching public school in the Mississippi Delta as a corps member with Teach for America, during which time she coauthored of The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess with her mother, Alice Randall. She owns more than 1,000 cookbooks.

Reviews 2

New York Review of Books Review

Ask anyone what makes a cookbook a success and you're bound to get a range of answers. Some of us require the full escapist experience we'd expect of a novel, a cover-to-cover immersion in another food lover's world. Some call it a win if the book offers a single recipe to add to the Forever Repertoire. Others ask: Will it offer techniques and inspiration to apply elsewhere? Will it romanticize the food we grew up with? Or have us sprinting to the nearest farmers' market to exorcise the food demons of our past? By any of these measures, this spring's new cookbooks deliver. FOOD52 GENIUS RECIPES: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook (Ten Speed, $35), based on Kirsten Miglore's popular column at the recipe-sharing website Food52, is the hands-down winner of the dog-eared page contest - because it instantly dismisses what might be the most important question asked by a cook confronting a new recipe. Namely, will this work? Of course it will. How do we know? Because the dishes in this collection are genius, here defined as legacy recipes "handed down by luminaries of the food world." Anyone who has ever disregarded the advice to "cook what you know" for a dinner party, and then spent the evening fretting about salmonella, will appreciate the comfort and confidence that come from making something thousands have made before you with great success. David Chang's revolution-igniting brussels sprouts tossed with fish sauce vinaigrette are here. So are Nigella Lawson's famously puddinglike chocolate loaf and Marcella Hazan's three-ingredient tomato sauce (tomatoes, a halved onion, a slab of butter). But indie stars also abound, like ABC Kitchen's roasted carrot and avocado salad and Diane Kochilas's pasta with yogurt and caramelized onions. Indeed, the genius here might lie in the book's wide appeal. For beginners, it's like a "Dummies' Guide to the Most Famous Recipes of All Time." For those deep into the food world, it's more like a litmus test: How many of these dishes have you made? "When asked just how I got to where I am," Christina Tosi writes in the introduction to MILK BAR LIFE: Recipes & Stories (Clarkson Potter, $35), "I know the answer is pretty simple: I. Have. No. Clue." Where is she exactly? In an 11,000-square-foot Williamsburg commissary churning out her signature crack pies and compost cookies for Momofuku's Milk Bar bakery; she's raking in product endorsements and joining Fox TV's "Master Chef" franchise; and if you are to believe this book, she's having a ball. It's impossible not to be charmed by the chatty Tosi and her hot pink and bubble-letter-filled never-never land, where family meals with the staff happen "on the regs" and all she wants when she gets home from work "around midnight" is a SpaghettiO's Sammy. (That would be a sandwich of Spaghetti O's, an egg, breakfast sausage and maple syrup, with a handful of chips - she recommends Doritos.) Unlike Tosi's first book, "Momofuku Milk Bar," this new one, written with Courtney McBroom, doesn't have you chasing down glucose to make birthday cake frosting. "The best stuff," Tosi makes clear in a chapter called "Hand-Me-Downs," is quick and frugal and hails from "in-laws, old friends, new friends, church folk, firehouse cookbooks, PTA potluck dinners and eccentric neighbors." To that end, we get a tour of Tosi's World of Fun: a fellow chef's grilled cheese made with Kewpie mayonnaise, food projects Tosi likes to do with friends on sleepovers ("jam and jelly sesh"!) and her grandmother's cocktail meatballs, for anyone "who has a Crock-Pot or a heart." It also means we get her Ritz Cracker ice box cake (ingredients: Ritz crackers, grape jelly, Cool Whip) and other nostalgia-glazed supermarket concoctions that seem designed expressly for the "lowbrow brilliant" quadrant of New York magazine's Approval Matrix - but it's the celebration of nostalgia that wins you over. Anyone who's ever engaged in a full-on stare-down with a package of chicken parts - that's pretty much everyone I know - will find solace, as well as 120 inspired dinner ideas, in Diana Henry's A BIRD IN THE HAND: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood (Mitchell Beazley, $29.99). Why a book like this hasn't been written before could go down as one of life's great mysteries. Sure, there are poultry books aplenty, but Henry, the longtime food columnist at Britain's Sunday Telegraph, travels the world to give our M.V.P. protein the royal treatment. She skewers thighs with scallions for Japanese yakitori, roasts legs with red peppers and chiles for Portuguese piri piri, shapes ground chicken into Thai chicken burgers. Even the lowly chicken breast, oft maligned for its flavorlessness and propensity to dry out, is revivified: doused in creamy tarragon dressing, along with cherries and watercress, or poached with brisket for bollito misto. The book, as poetically written and photographed as it is titled, is studded with helpful little essays. In one called "Chicken Loves Booze," Henry recommends having an arsenal of vermouth, dry Marsala, hard cider, sherry and Calvados for easy upgrading. Luckily, she also offers a host of weeknight quickies, when you don't have time for the ingredient-laden chicken with Shaoxing wine, crisp radishes and pickled ginger. Amid the onslaught of whole-food, plant-based spring cookbooks, most of which carry the whiff of paleo (if not the word itself right there in the title), three earn their real estate on the cookbook shelf. Mostly because they're selling you virtuousness right along with the chia seed pudding, and will have you one-clicking chestnut flour and $13-a-jar coconut butter while pondering questions like "What's so great about a cheeseburger anyway?" Anna Jones's A MODERN WAY TO EAT: 200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing) (Ten Speed, $35) draws on her experience as a food stylist and restaurant chef (she was one of the originals in Jamie Oliver's apprentice kitchen, Fifteen), and evidence of her professional chops is everywhere: In the keeperworthy, multilayered dal soup with crispy sweet potatoes and quick coconut chutney; in the way she has you roll crushed hazelnuts into the spelt flour dough for the sweet red onion and hazelnut pizzette. Jones often asks a lot of the home cook, but we're talking serious centerpiece food here, and even if you don't feel like whirling cashews into a creamy dressing for a Thai-inspired slaw on a regular old Tuesday night, you'd be relieved to have her book when charged with the now common task of cooking for your paleo-gluten-free-vegan-vegetarianyou-name-it dinner guests. For those Tuesday nights, though, there's THE SPROUTED KITCHEN BOWL & SPOON: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share (Ten Speed, $25), by Sara Forte. Not for nothing, the book opens with a series of dreamy images shot by Forte's husband, Hugh, who also does the photography for her blog. There's Sara, through an ivy-framed window, cooking in her breezy kitchen. There's Sara spooning something leafy-greeny into her toddler's mouth. Fans of her popular blog and first book (both called "The Sprouted Kitchen") will recognize the familiar pull of Forte's golden Southern California world, filled with life-altering miso-tahini-dressed tofu bowls and, it seems, eternal sunshine. Though not classically trained, Forte has worked as a personal chef and interned at a cooking school in Italy, and her authority stems from "feeding people and paying attention." This bodes well for the home cook who's interested in a more gradual on-ramp to the world of real food. (Like Tosi, Forte was raised on supermarket staples like "blue box mac and cheese with hot dogs," but unlike Tosi she's not exactly romanticizing it.) Her pages are populated with "bowl foods," a term Hugh uses to describe his wife's magically nestled combos of lean proteins, grains and vegetables. Think ahi poke bowls or slivered veggie and soba salad with mapled tofu. It works. THE BRITISH BLOGGING PHENOM Ella Woodward (picture a blue-eyed Christy Turlington with more than 56,000 Twitter followers) learned how to cook only when she was told she had postural tachycardia syndrome, a rare disease of the nervous system that left her in constant pain and with crippling fatigue. A one-time "sugar monster" whose diet revolved around processed foods, Woodward converted to a dairy-free, gluten-free plant-based diet and, as the story goes in DELICIOUSLY ELLA: 100+ Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes (Scribner, paper, $19.99), she found herself healed. Her brand of veganism is more save-your-life than way-of-life, and although her evangelism can veer toward the schoolgirlish (nut butters: "one of the best creations ever"; roasted potatoes: "kind of like an edible hug!"), you get over it when you start cooking. Coconut milk porridge, baked beans, lentil Bolognese - these kinds of recipes aren't intimidating, but with the inclusion of umami-upgraders like date syrup and miso paste, they aren't pedestrian either. Will her three-ingredient raw brownies (medjool dates, pecans, cacao powder) win over gluten-eating nonvegans? No. But that's not really the point. Plants are very much the point in two boldface chef books out this spring. Neither ROOT TO LEAF: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons (Harper Wave, $45) by Steven Satterfield nor April Bloomfield's A girl and her GREENS: Hearty Meals From the Garden (Ecco, $34.99) has any interest in upending your lifestyle or convincing you the answer to all your problems lies inside a bag of gluten-free almond flour. Their mission is pretty simple: to share their pure, unadulterated adoration for in-season produce. (And if meat happens to be there too, so be it.) Satterfield, the much-lauded chef at Atlanta's Miller Union restaurant, believes that if you show up at the farmers' market "with an open mind and some empty bags, rather than a shopping list, you can respond to what is available." That takes some practice for most of us, but in the meantime, we get to see the market through his eyes, which will work just fine and give us the likes of whiskeyed peach shortcakes, spring onion pizza and julienne snow pea salad with spring herbs. Like a lot of chef cookbooks, many of the dishes here contain sub-recipes that ask you to turn to another page to, say, make the homemade mayonnaise before you proceed with the green goddess dressing; but once you buy into Satterfield's world, this is motivating, not crushing. "My motivation is more about passion than scruples," Bloomfield declares. Raised in Birmingham, England, on frozen vegetables and overcooked brussels sprouts, she fell hard for her greens by way of London's River Café and Berkeley's Chez Panisse. The nose-to-tail chef, who made a name for herself with burgers and trotters around Manhattan, wants to set the record straight. Though lamb shoulders and suckling pigs are "like action films, with lots of explosions and excitement," what gets her "chuffed," she'd like us to know, are spring peas. Particularly when mashed with mint and served with aged pecorino, or braised with little gem lettuces and young onions. Unlike Satterfield, Bloomfield and her co-author JJ Goode don't include many sub-recipes, and even if you don't end up falling for, say, the ramps with fried eggs or the polenta whirled with kale purée, you'll fall for the relatable, readable Bloomfield, who encourages fussiness only when picking the few fresh ingredients she asks you to seek out. To borrow a word from her, the whole package is "moreish." Translation for Yanks: You just want more. In SOUL FOOD LOVE: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family (Clarkson Potter, $30), by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, the mother-daughter team tackle four generations of culinary history in a family where it was practically law that "matriarchs grew large." These women were the wives of entrepreneurs and state senators, members of multiple social clubs, hostesses for college communities, and in their kitchens they collectively cooked up a "black bourgeois bubble where black worth was celebrated and tasted." Theirs is a story of fine mousses and custards, of grand layer cakes. But those aren't the recipes offered up here. For Alice Randall, author of the 2001 novel "The Wind Done Gone," who announced on the New York Times Op-Ed page in 2012 that she was going to be "the last fat black woman in my family," this is a book about redefining soul food for the future, not romanticizing its often calorie-laden past. Alice wants her daughter to inherit a different kind of kitchen, one with "health as well as history on the table," so the pair gives us "sinless" sweet potato pie, broccoli soup (hold the cream and cheese) and salmon fillets instead of hulking hams. There are two notable entries in the "it started with a food truck" genre. Whatever you do, don't mistake Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay's FRANKLIN BARBECUE: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto (Ten Speed, $29.99) for the obligatory tongs-and-testosterone grill book that comes down the pike just in time for Father's Day. Franklin, the famously exacting proprietor behind the Austin-based barbecue shop, is offering a manifesto for hard-core pit enthusiasts who want to drill deep on subjects like reverse flow smokers and the science of wood drying - to give you an idea, no actual cooking happens until Chapter 6, out of a total of 7. But for a certain kind of reader, the book is what you might call a category killer. In the good-times, yearbook-themed BIG GAY ICE CREAM: Saucy Stories and Frozen Treats: Going All the Way With Ice Cream (Clarkson Potter, $25), Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint (aided by Rebecca Flint Marx) share the recipes that made their downtown New York ice cream truck a phenomenon. Die-hards will be happy to see their signature bacon and chocolate ice cream sandwich, the "Choinkwich," as well as "The Bea Arthur," so named for its swirls of "Golden-Girl"-ish-hued dulce de leche and Nilla wafers. Both books offer real roll-up-your-sleeves technique, but they also do something else, something better, maybe even by accident. They offer a blueprint for the food truck dreamer, a strategy not rooted in spreadsheets and profitand-loss reports but in enthusiasm and obsessiveness. For Petroff and Quint's about-to-be-national chain (which all began when a friend posted "ice cream truck drivers wanted!" on Facebook) the business plan amounted to not much more than: Why the hell not? Likewise, Franklin's back story shows how far a little scrappiness can go if you want something badly enough. He essentially built an empire by hosting backyard cookouts (making a point to learn from each one) and scouring the free section of Craigslist. Most of this happened when money was so tight that he and his wife were often writing the rent check before her waitress pay came through, and, as he puts it, "hoping it works out." All you have to do is look at Franklin's clientele (President Obama, among others, visited last summer) and its legendary lines to know how that story ends. ONLINE Don't mind the heat and can't bear to get out of the kitchen? For a quick look at 20 more cookbooks, visit JENNY ROSENSTRACH is the author of "Dinner: A Love Story," a book inspired by her blog of the same name, and "Dinner: The Playbook."

Library Journal Review

The Wind Done Gone author Randall and daughter, poet Randall Williams, write about the history of black cooking in America and offer recipes that are both traditional and nutritious. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.