What is American food? Two new cookbooks out this month, America the Great Cookbook: The Food We Make for the People We Love (Weldon Owen) and America: The Cookbook (Phaidon), address the answer.
America the Great Cookbook
Joe Yonan, James Beard Award–winning food and dining editor of the Washington Post.
One hundred of the country’s finest chefs and “food heroes,” as Yonan calls them, from prominent home cooks to farmers, contributed recipes. “An all-chef book doesn’t really represent the true scope of cooking that’s happening in America,” says the editor. “There’s so much incredible stuff happening in people’s home kitchens.”
“A lot of people are wondering where they fit in America and whether or not they understand America today,” says Yonan. “By showing the variety of foods and the diversity of people who make up this country, I’m hoping this book can help provide an answer to that.” A portion of the sales from the book benefits No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization that works to eradicate child hunger in America.
From Atlanta, Miller Union co-owner and executive chef Steven Satterfield and cookbook author Virginia Willis. From Savannah, Mashama Bailey, partner and executive chef of the Grey.
Creamed rice with spring vegetables and ham (Satterfield), summer squash salad and cornmeal-crusted trout (Willis), and Gullah-inspired smoked and fried oysters served with rice grits (Bailey).
Nigerian chef and author Tunde Wey writes, “I’ve lived in America since I was 16, and I’m in my 30s now. When I enter any space, my appearance and my accent announce who I am. . . . The more we normalize food from different groups and we make room for those groups, the more we set them free to be who they are.”
America: The Cookbook
Gabrielle Langholtz, communications manager for the nonprofit Wholesome Wave and former editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn magazines.
Langholtz and her team of recipe testers traveled the country to come up with 600 recipes, each marked with their corresponding regions. Essays and menus for each state follow. “I want to broaden the definition of what American food is,” says Langholtz. “Roast chicken and strawberry shortcake belong in the book but so do scallion pancakes and tripe soup.”
“When I was growing up and reading Gourmet, the attention was on France and Italy,” says Langholtz. “For a long time we had an inferiority complex when it came to our own culinary traditions. In recent years, though, Americans have rediscovered American foods, helped by the farm-to-table movement. We’re noticing real value in this regionalism, and I want to celebrate that relatively newfound sense of pride.”
Nicole A. Taylor, Georgia-born author of The Up South Cookbook, contributed an essay, and Hugh Acheson, Athens and Atlanta chef and restaurateur, shared a menu consisting of fried okra with remoulade and field peas with fatback and fresh herbs.
Aside from Acheson’s, the Georgia recipes in this book range from pimiento cheese to Coca-Cola-glazed ham to watermelon lemonade.
“Atlanta has transformed,” writes Taylor. “Shiny new towers scrape the sky [but] African American–owned Southern culinary spots are vanishing. The hope lies in the people and the stove. A new generation must look beyond the pines and make the dishes—cook the food. Stories of progress and equality are waiting for an open door.”
This article originally appeared in our October 2017 issue.