Author Jessica B. Harris first came to my attention when I bought The Black Family Reunion Cookbook, which was the subject of one of my blogs from last year. I love that cookbook, and love this one just as much. Someone needs to make a movie or documentary about this accomplished woman. She is just fascinating! Jessica has been honored numerous times for spreading the word of African and Caribbean cuisines around the world. You must go to her website, http://www.africooks.com/ and read of her incredible life and what she is doing now (a new cookbook soon!) because I don’t have enough space to write of all her accomplishments!
In Beyond Gumbo, you will find 150 recipes from across the Americas, accompanied by cultural and historical information. Creole cuisine is so vast in its elements from rice dishes, hot sauces, fritters, seafood, and vegetables. In Creole cuisine you might find vanilla borrowed from the Mexican Aztecs combined with rice grown using African methods, but cooked using European techniques. Her recipes include a corn stew from Costa Rica, Aztec corn soup from Mexico, mashed sweet potatoes with pineapple from the United States, leg of pork from Puerto Rico, and gumbo recipes from New Orleans. The book is so historically informative that you almost forget it is a cookbook! It makes a wonderful read while the okra soup is simmering and the lemon-pecan pound cake is cooling.
The book, with its culinary anthropology, helps to understand our world and its people, and is a joy to read even if you aren’t a cook. Jessica both educates and inspires the joy of African-Creole cuisine. One commentary in the book describes it perfectly – “Reading the recipes makes you want to dance as well as eat.” I couldn’t have described it better.
Banana seller in the French Caribbean
Women Vegetable vendors from Charleston, South Carolina