Lessons on Black Food History From Rufus Estes’ ‘Good Things to Eat’

What the first cookbook from an African American chef teaches us

Kayla Stewart
Heated
Published in
6 min readJun 1, 2020

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Photo courtesy of Historic Maury County

Toni Tipton-Martin’s lauded cookbook Jubilee, named one of the best cookbooks of 2019 by numerous publications, is one of the most significant efforts to share the stories and recipes of the chefs who created and shaped African American cooking — and an American culinary landscape that people from endless backgrounds know and love.

Completed and released in the midst of the Trump presidency, which has resolved to dismantle basic democracy, obfuscate facts and reason, and vilify the millions of minorities who have built, defined, and sustained this country, Jubilee serves as a frustrating yet powerful reminder that this country’s ills and sins have never healed or been atoned for, and a true reckoning has never happened.

Yet many came before Tipton-Martin. For decades, the work of countless African American chefs has been overlooked and undervalued; that is, until black food historians and culinary experts like Tipton-Martin began to work to reclaim these invaluable stories. Though Africans touched American soil 292 years earlier, hundreds of cookbooks had been written and published by white American authors during the 18th and 19th centuries, and African Americans had…

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Kayla Stewart
Heated
Writer for

Kayla Stewart is a freelance journalist from Houston, and is currently based in Harlem.