7/24/2009My daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, says that the recipes in Soul Food Love are love letters to me. And I say the history chapters that open our cookbook are love letters to our foremothers, to all they cooked and didn't cook. To their beautiful life giving and life sustaining bodies.
7/23/2009We love our Peanut Chicken Stew! Other folks love it too, it's been featured in Southern Living and you can find it on myrecipes.com Peanut Chicken Stew is one of the dishes we cooked in New York when we entertained food folk and close friends to celebrate the launch of Soul Food Love. One of the many things I love about it aside from being tasty, cheap, easy, and healthy is that it features the peanut. The peanut has been a reliable source of protein for black people in America for a good long time. No body appreciated this more than George Washington Carver. We think Carver would have loved this soup.
7/22/2009Black people garden, quiet as it is kept. We gardened in Africa, we gardened during slavery, and we gardened after emancipation. One of the things we've been growing in America for a good long while is cucumbers. Pickled cucumbers are a taste of summer in the winter. Dyed a neon Kool-Aid color they are surreal fairytale food common in the Mississippi Delta. This soup, cold cucumber soup, from Soul Food Love, is a celebration of black gardens and a reminder that the colors of real life can dazzle as significantly as the colors of fairytale. The original title of our cookbook was the green black kitchen but people thought we were talking about decorating not putting the vegetables back in the center of our plates and bowls untroubled by meat or fat. This soup is from our green black kitchen. It is a wise soup that acknowledges we are field workers and auto workers no more and do not need manual laboring calories.
7/22/2009I've had two quite extraordinary mothers-in-law, Joan Marie Bontemps Williams, Caroline's grandmother, and Florence Steele Kidd, my second husband's mother. This salad, Joan's Nicoise, was created as a tribute to Joan Williams. In many ways Joan is the founder of the Soul Food Love feast. She left Caroline her immense, over one thousand book strong, cookbook collection. Living to eat, and eating to live with Joan's cookbook collection sheltering and inspiring us has brought me many of the happiest and healthiest hours of my life. Thinking about that--I send more thanks up to Joan now buried with her husband and her parents in Nashville's Greenwood Cemetery. Langston Hughes referred to Joan as one of the golden babies of the Harlem Renaissance. I knew her as a stalwart pillar of the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, the original kitchen sink warrior, who did battle and financed wars wearing nothing more frightening than a blue and flowery housedress. All the good wishes that rose in the room around her cradle had come true by the time she was laid in her grave. She had her disappointments, but she did not disappoint. I type that without sentiment and without reservation. The woman exceeded all expectations. If was If you want to know more about that, and how it came her husband got the campus of a University named after him, and Joan got a salad take a look at the Nana chapter in Soul Food Love.
7/22/2009People always ask me what it is like working with, writing with my daughter. I usually say, "Wonderful!" and it is wonderful, but another truth is that I don't remember not writing with my daughter. We literally began collaborating on The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess when she was three years old. And in a sense it was on bed rest with Caroline when pregnant that I decided I would become a novelist and started thinking about the novels I would write as books I would one day want my adult daughter to read. Writing together is our way of playing, and it is our way of honoring the ancestors, our way of acknowledging black families, like families all over the world have long worked together, hard and long, and the best, the happiest have found ways to make the hard work, the hard days, the hard rains delightful even amid difficulty. So yes, we have had our difficulties, the days we worried about the budget for testing recipes and the days we worried about who had the time to write what, and yes they were, in fact, eclipsed by the joy of sharing a worthy and worth it project. Writing Soul Food Love is like stocking a treasure chest for our family to come and sharing our family treasure with those who can't find theirs. So sweet.