cover image The African-American Kitchen: Cooking from Our Heritage

The African-American Kitchen: Cooking from Our Heritage

Angela Shelf Medearis. Dutton Books, $23.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93834-7

``My African ancestors left me intangible heirlooms-a will to survive, a strong sense of family, and a love of foods that connect me to the past.'' Medearis, a children's-book author who specializes in African American subjects, considers her ancestors ``an invisible but strong presence in my kitchen'' and in what she terms the cultural ``stew'' of America. This book honors them and that. The author compiles recipes that are African or Caribbean, that originated in American slave kitchens or that characterize contemporary African American taste. Regardless, her preference is for the solidly homemade, not the newfangled; Medearis eschews fast food and ``styrofoam and plastic.'' Her well-written introductory essays warm the book with bits of family history and culinary lore before serving up shrimp gumbo, bread pudding, hoecakes, a Kenyan version of steak, Ethiopian and Moroccan dishes, and plain old sassafras tea (needed: ``1 small bunch sassafras root'' and water). Spiced, generous and friendly, this work draws you in with a point of view on food, not just the food. (Oct.)