The Jemima Code
Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
by Toni Tipton-Martin
Pub Date 20 Sep 2015
Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.
The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.
A Note From the Publisher
“The Jemima Code
is no ordinary book. It’s a heaping helping, a long overdue
acknowledgment of African-Americans who have toiled in this field since
the country’s beginnings. With eloquence and urgency, Tipton-Martin
makes the case that without the people of the African diaspora not only
would America’s food be different, so would its culinary conversation.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"The cookbooks featured in The Jemima Code exemplify a richness and diversity of African-American cooking and food knowledge far beyond traditional “soul” food . . . [they] help illustrate the sophistication and expertise that African-American women brought to the kitchens in which they worked."
—Women in the World, New York Times
“[The Jemima Code is] that rare coffee table book that
serves up important history and compelling imagery in digestible,
bite-size chunks that still stick to your ribs.”
—Michel Martin, NPR's Best Books of 2015
“One of the most essential, beautiful, powerful food books of our era.”
—Helen Rosner, Executive Editor, Eater
"Intended to shine ‘a spotlight on America’s invisible black cooks,’
many of whom were skilled project managers, entrepreneurs, and creative
masterminds. . . . An appetizing new book, bursting with illustrations,
how-tos, jingles, and rare archival photographs."
"The Jemima Code is more than a book about books. Through
chapters with titles like "Surviving Mammyism," "Lifting as We Climb,"
"Soul Food" and "Sweet to the Soul," Tipton-Martin uses the cookbooks to
tell a story of race and identity in the U.S."
—The Chicago Tribune
"Austin, Texas, journalist Toni Tipton-Martin’s African American cookbook compilation, The Jemima Code, released last September, is proof that its author is one of today’s smartest thinkers on food and culture."
—Garden & Gun's Southern Hot List
"Tipton-Martin presents a new look at the influence of black chefs
and their recipes on American food culture. Her goals are two-fold: to
expand the broader community’s perception of African-American culinary
traditions and to inspire African Americans to embrace their culinary