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Cooking from Our Heritage

by Angela Shelf Medearis

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-93834-6
Publisher: Dutton

Children's book author MedearĀ°s has bitten off more than she can chew in trying to cover Africa and the Caribbean as well as early and modern African-American cooking. Simple recipes are nothing special: almond-infused warm milk from Morocco is soothing, but hardly worth the hour necessary to prepare it, and an eggplant dip from Nigeria is piquant, although attempts to grind, as instructed, a teaspoon of sesame seeds and a single clove of garlic in a standard blender are bound to fail. The chapter on ``Slave Kitchens'' provides some of the most interesting fodder for thought with a recipe for fried squirrel. Modern African-American dishes are somewhat characterless in comparison. It is hard to discern any appropriate cultural roots in crab salad with feta dressing and fajitas filled with shellfish. A brief, tacked-on chapter supplies menus and a few dishes for holidays like Juneteenth (June 19, emancipation day in Texas) and Kwanzaa. There are a few cooking faux pas here that simply cannot be ignored: A recipe for black beans and rice calls for undrained canned beans, adding a hefty dose of sodium, and a recipe for Ethiopia's flat injera bread calls for Aunt Jemima's Deluxe Easy Pour Pancake Mix in place of the traditional grain teff; while this may be the way injera is commonly made today, it will strike some readers as a bad ethnic joke. MedearĀ°s dots these pages with mostly banal quotes from well- known African-Americans like Booker T. Washington, Oprah Winfrey, and...herself. A multicultural mess.