Recipes for Respect

African American Meals and Meaning

Title Details

Pages: 148



Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5367-8

List Price: $24.95


Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5366-1

List Price: $99.95


Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5365-4

List Price: $24.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Southern Foodways Alliance

Recipes for Respect

African American Meals and Meaning

How foodways writing influenced African American culture in the United States

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Food studies, once trendy, has settled into the public arena. In the academy, scholarship on food and literary culture constitutes a growing river within literary and cultural studies, but writing on African American food and dining remains a tributary. Recipes for Respect bridges this gap, illuminating the role of foodways in African American culture as well as the contributions of Black cooks and chefs to what has been considered the mainstream.

Beginning in the early nineteenth century and continuing nearly to the present day, African Americans have often been stereotyped as illiterate kitchen geniuses. Rafia Zafar addresses this error, highlighting the long history of accomplished African Americans within our culinary traditions, as well as the literary and entrepreneurial strategies for civil rights and respectability woven into the written records of dining, cooking, and serving. Whether revealed in cookbooks or fiction, memoirs or hotel-keeping manuals, agricultural extension bulletins or library collections, foodways knowledge sustained Black strategies for self-reliance and dignity, the preservation of historical memory, and civil rights and social mobility. If, to follow Mary Douglas's dictum, food is a field of action-that is, a venue for social intimacy, exchange, or aggression-African American writing about foodways constitutes an underappreciated critique of the racialized social and intellectual spaces of the United States.

Drawing on Mary Douglas's early insight that 'food is a field of social action,' Rafia Zafar carefully braids strands of culinary history, authorship, and politics in African American culture to demonstrate how writers and cooks (and writer-cooks) used foodways to intervene in questions of political and social advancement. Recipes for Respect is a thoroughly engaging trip through African American gastronomic life that replaces stereotype and flattened ideas about African-American relations with food with a supple, wide-ranging picture of the black men and women who wrote, planted and cooked their way into new positions in American life.

—Kim F. Hall, author of Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England

About the Author/Editor

RAFIA ZAFAR is a professor of English, African and African American studies, and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she also serves as faculty director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Her previous publications include We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870 and the Library of America's two-volume anthology Harlem Renaissance Fiction.