Jessica B. Harris’s Guide to Black Culinary History

Bahia, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Martha’s Vineyard, and Paris are the places she’s called home. Erudite, wickedly funny, and droll describe her personality. Who are we talking about?

None other than the culinary historian Doctor Jessica B. Harris—founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a professional society championing women in culinary fields, an award-winning journalist, podcaster, and author of over a dozen deeply researched books and too many articles to count. (If you’re looking for something that goes down like butter, check out her memoir, My Soul Looks Back, filled with tales about her adventures in New York’s Greenwich Village with friends James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.)

As the foremost expert on the foodways of the African Diaspora, there’s no better (or wittier) guide to Black culinary traditions. Here, she shares with us a few the dishes, books, and ingredients she finds essential to unpacking this long, rich, and ever-evolving history. —Dawn Davis, editor in chief

Photo by Suzi Pratt

Try the Homestyle Favorites

Chef Edouardo Jordan’s JuneBaby restaurant in Seattle is an edible praise song to the genius of African American cooks. The menu offers classic dishes like fried chicken and greens along with specials—like chitlins and Momma Jordan’s oxtails—not usually tasted outside of home kitchens.

Tour the Archives

Toni Tipton-Martin’s The Jemima Code reclaims and celebrates the heritage of Black America’s controversial “aunt” by documenting 200 years of African American cookbooks from her personal collection. Familiar figures such as Edna Lewis show up alongside unexpected personalities such as activist Bobby Seale and singer Mahalia Jackson in this must-own compendium.

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