Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks

Clarkson Potter. Jan. 2024. 256p. ISBN 9780593236512. $30. COOKING
With this deeply personal cookbook/memoir, Wilkinson (Perfect Black), former poet laureate of Kentucky, welcomes readers into her kitchen to share the culinary legacy passed down through five generations of Black Appalachians. Via family lore and archival photographs, she tells the story of not only her relatives but also a foodway that is often overlooked. Lyrical prose swaddles bundles of recipes, relating the regional importance of cornbread, sorghum, and blackberries, among other ingredients. Recipes cover a wide swath of eras and flavors: there are classics like chicken and dumplings, lost standards like benedictine (cucumber spread), and family favorites like Granny Christine’s jam cake. Wilkinson has modernized some dishes so that they’re more practical to make today, giving the book versatility. After taking this journey with Wilkinson, home cooks will rush to their kitchens to try her recipes but will also be inspired to dig out their own family’s stained and worn recipe cards.
VERDICT Cookbook readers will delight in the beautiful exploration of ancestry, homeland, and food that Wilkinson weaves and relish bringing these foodways of Black Appalachians into their own homes.
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