For Discussion:


1. Every family has its own food culture. What dish best captures the spirit of your family? What dish do you think most captured the spirit of the Randall-Williams family?


2. Each of the women featured in Soul Food Love —Dear, Grandma, Nana, and Mama—faced obstacles to becoming a great home cook. Dear lived in the countryside when it was a dangerous place for black people; Grandma had the pressure of putting thousands of family meals on the table with a limited budget; Nana’s house welcomed an unending stream of civil rights activists; and Mama juggled a life as a writer and professor along with responsibilities as a single mother. Discuss the strategies each of these women used to overcome the obstacles they encountered. Which of the women succumbed to the obstacles? Which of them triumphed?


3. What is the biggest obstacle you experience getting daily meals on the table? What was the biggest obstacle your mother faced? Your grandmother? What strategies did your foremothers use to overcome their obstacles? Were some challenges too big to overcome?


4. If you could be a guest at a dinner hosted by Dear, Grandma, Nana, or Mama, who would you choose? Why?


5. If you could spend an afternoon cooking with Dear, Grandma, Nana, or Mama, who would you choose to join in the kitchen? Why?


6. Dear self-medicates with sugar. Are there any foods that you use to try to relieve anxiety? To lift you from depression?


7. Grandma’s favorite childhood snack was the very healthy sardines and crackers. What’s the healthiest snack you love and serve at home?


8. Nana was frequently called upon to entertain a crowd at the last minute. She put her blender and food processor to hard use whirling up dips. What’s your go-to, last-minute a-crowd-is-coming recipe?


9. In the process of struggling with her weight, Mama went from cooking trifle to serving jugged pear that was a kind of remix of the trifle, which she loved even more. Have you ever adapted a recipe to be healthier and ended up liking the adapted version more?


10. Peanuts and sweet potatoes are grocery staples that Caroline associates with some of the healthier roots of her family food tree. What are some of the foodstuffs that are in your family history that have almost been forgotten but deserve to be back on the menu?


11. If you could add only one recipe from Soul Food Love to your weekly dinner menu, what would it be?


12. Mama writes about Diddy Wah Diddy, a mythic land with perfect food. What would be on the menu in your food utopia?


13. Who are the best cooks in your family? Are all of them women? Are any, like Papa, men?


14. What is the specialty of your house, your go-to home-cooked dinner?


15. What dish do you most associate with your family feast?


16. What’s the oldest dish in your family kitchen tree? Do you have any recipes in your family that date back to the nineteenth century?


17. Do you have any secret family recipes that are only shared within the family?


18. If you could own only one cookbook (not including Soul Food Love), what would it be?


19. Some book clubs have their own food culture. Does your book club have a signature recipe? Are there any set expectations of what will be served at a book club meeting? Is it important that book club food be homemade? Abundant? Healthy? Luxurious? Adventurous?


20. Is there an acknowledged best cook in your book club? Who is it?


Activities:
• Draw your own family kitchen tree.
• Interview your oldest living relative who is capable of giving an interview about what they ate as a child and how it compares to what they eat now. Video the interview and share it at book club.
• Cook a book club feast using Soul Food Love recipes.
• Sister to Sister Cooking Workshop: identify a working mother who often feeds her children fast food dinners. Make, freeze, and deliver one of the soups for her.