A collection of essays on the life and influences of pioneering chef Edna Lewis (1916-2006).
Editor Franklin, a food studies scholar, gathers the thoughts of a wide variety of contributors, including John T. Edge, Alice Waters, Michael W. Twitty, and others. Known for her poignant depictions of Southern folklore, Lewis was not one to shy away from other people’s misconceptions and prejudices. She made it her mission to combine food culture with sociopolitical issues, to interweave notions of racial tolerance and peaceful cohabitation in the dishes she served and in the stories she told. Franklin divides the book into three parts. In the first, essayists recall their first impressions of Lewis. In the second part, writers reflect on the impact Lewis has had on the sociopolitical climate and how both her writing and cookbooks greatly contributed to the dialogue. In the third section, contributors evaluate Lewis’ legacy in today’s world—Twitty writes, “my purpose here is to look at the life of chef Lewis as a continuum of a specific culinary and cultural legacy rooted in a particular regional and familial past.” Franklin’s laudable project sheds much-needed light on the significance of this singular culinary figure. “There is something about the South,” wrote Lewis in an essay, “that stimulates creativity in people, be they black or white writers, artists, cooks, builders, or primitives that pass away without knowing they were talented.” It’s precisely that creativity that Lewis captured and embodied and that many of the anthology’s contributors highlight throughout. Regarding Lewis’ Taste of Country Cooking, Patricia E. Clark writes, “Lewis as subject and author of her own work is rendered with an intimate familiarity and a peculiar anonymity all at once.” Franklin’s work is a compelling examination of Lewis’ identity that will appeal to food historians, racial studies scholars, and anyone seeking to learn more about Southern food.
A fascinating, prismatic look at the legacy of one of America’s most beloved chefs.