THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin

June 25, 2017

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Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks

Last year I heard an interview with this author on NPR and she was fascinating. The book sounded really interesting, but I never did get around to looking at it.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Florida Library Association’s annual conference this year. The opening keynote speaker was Toni Tipton-Martin, and once again, she was completely mesmerizing. I didn’t want to put this on the back burner again so as soon as I got back to the library, I checked out her book.

When someone researches then writes a book that they are passionate about, it shows on every page, as is the case here. Martin has a collected hundreds of African American cookbooks over a number of years, and puts that collection to good use, sharing info from 150 cookbooks, dating back to 1827.  The New York Times review stated,

“The Jemima Code” is no ordinary book. It’s a heaping helping, a long overdue acknowledgment of African-Americans who have toiled in this field since the country’s beginnings.

All I can add is that it is truly inspiring and despite the sometimes scholastic tone, very readable and interesting. I kept this book for four weeks, taking my time going through it. There is a lot of information to digest here, and there are some interesting recipes as well. It is laid out chronologically, starting with Nineteenth Century Cookbooks including Mrs. Malina Russell’s “A Domestic Cookbook: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen” (1866) then moving through about twenty-five years in each chapter. Some of the cookbooks included:

How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, by George W. Carver (1925)

Cookbook “Work and Serve the Home,” compiled by Mamie Cook, chairman of Ways and Means Department, New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1928)

A Date with a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes by Freda De Knight (1948)

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: From Chicken n’ Ribs to Buttermilk Biscuits and Blackeyed Peas – A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes from Manhattan’s Most Spirited Chef, by Princess Pamela (1969)

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis* (1976)
*Top Chef, season 14, started out in Charleston, SC. This was the first time I ever heard of Edna Lewis, who was called the “Julia Child” of Southern cooking.

The Presley Family Cookbook by Vester Presley (Elvis’s uncle) and Nancy Rooks (Presley family maid and cook since 1967) (1980)

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From the publisher:

Winner, James Beard Foundation Book Award, 2016
Art of Eating Prize, 2015
BCALA Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2016

Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially Southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.

The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin. University of Texas Press (September 15, 2015).  ISBN 978-0292745483.  264p.

 


VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport

February 22, 2017
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The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen: Official Companion to the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS

From the publisher:

The official companion to the Masterpiece presentation on PBS, Victoria delves into the private writings of the young Queen Victoria, painting a vivid picture of the personal life of one of England’s greatest monarchs.

From the producers of Poldark and Endeavour, ITV’s Victoria follows the early years of the young queen’s reign, based closely on Victoria’s own letters and journals. Now explore this extensive collection in greater depth, and discover who Victoria really was behind her upright public persona.

At only eighteen years old, Victoria ascended the throne as a rebellious teenager and gradually grew to become one of the most memorable, unshakeable and powerful women in history. The extensive writings she left behind document this personal journey and show how she triumphed over scandal and corruption. Written by author and Victoria historical consultant, Helen Rappaport, and including a foreword by Daisy Goodwin—acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter of the series—Victoria details the history behind the show. Revealing Victoria’s own thoughts about the love interests, family dramas and court scandals during her early reign, it also delves into the running of the royal household, the upstairs-downstairs relationships, and what it was like to live in Victorian England.

Full of beautiful photography from the series and genuine imagery from the era, Victoria takes you behind the palace doors and discover the girl behind the queen.

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This is a beautiful book made with heavy paper and stunning photographs. I loved seeing portraits of the real Victoria and the other characters, and all I can say is the casting and the makeup are amazing. Victoria’s diary entries are fascinating, as are the reproductions of letters. This is a treasure trove for any fan of the TV series and of British history.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport. Harper Design (January 31, 2017). ISBN 978-0062568892. 304p.


ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER by Judith Dupré

August 13, 2016
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Biography of the Building

I was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. School field trips meant visiting some of the greatest museums in the world. Family outings to Sunday Broadway matinees. Real Chinese food in Chinatown, the great Peter Luger steakhouse. Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas extravaganza. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, walking around looking at all the incredible Christmas displays in the store windows. Pretzels from street vendors in summer, roasted chestnuts in winter.

I was about 8 years old or so when the World Trade Center was built. I remember going there with my mom and having lunch at the top at the Windows on the World restaurant. The view was amazing.

I went to the University of Miami in 1975 and never really lived in New York again. A brief summer when I took algebra (for the second time) at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, right down the road from my house. I still visited a couple of times a year, I had family and friends there, usually in the Hamptons during the summer. But I never felt any need to go back to New York City. Until 9/11.

I got really homesick after that devastating day. A couple of years later, we took a family vacation to One World Trade centerManhattan. We stayed in a beautiful suite at the Helmsley Park Lane, overlooking Central Park. We did all the touristy things, some of which I’d never done like visit the Statue of Liberty, and most of which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid – the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the New York Public Library. We went to Chinatown and Little Italy. We went to see “Wicked” on Broadway with the amazing Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. It was a fantastic week and probably the best family vacation we’d ever taken. The trip would not have been complete without paying our respects at Ground Zero, which was a sobering sight indeed.

My husband and I have been visiting NYC pretty much every year since. A couple of years ago my son moved to Brooklyn, and the International Thriller Writers annual conference is in Manhattan every July, giving me even more reasons to go. We occasionally went by Ground Zero, which eventually became the building site of One World Trade Center – often with a trip across the street to Century 21 –  a little retail therapy at one of my favorite discount stores. And then finally, the building was complete.

reflecting pool ground zeroLast year we went to visit One World Trade Center. There were long lines for the museum tour, but as we walked passed the the reflecting pools and tower, I was already crying. I told my husband that I couldn’t do it and as always, he understood. We stayed for a while then went back uptown.

This book is an extraordinary look at this building. I hope to be able to visit the museum eventually, but for now, I’ll stick with the book.

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From the publisher:

The behind-the-scenes story of the most extraordinary building in the world, from the bestselling author of Skyscrapers
In this groundbreaking history, bestselling author Judith Dupré chronicles the most astonishing architectural project in memory: One World Trade Center.
The new World Trade Center represents one of the most complex collaborations in human history. Nearly every state in the nation, a dozen countries around the world, and more than 25,000 workers helped raise the tower, which consumed ninety million pounds of steel, one million square feet of glass, and enough concrete to pave a sidewalk from New York to Chicago.
With more than seventy interviews with the people most intimately involved, and unprecedented access to the building site, suppliers, and archives, Dupré unfurls the definitive story of fourteen years of conflict and controversy-and its triumphant resolution.
This fascinating, oversize book delivers new insight into the 1,776-foot-tall engineering marvel, from design and excavation through the final placement of its spire. It offers:
  • Access to the minds of world-class architects, engineers, ironworkers, and other tradespeople
  • Panoramas of New York from One World Observatory-1,268 feet above the earth
  • Dramatic cutaways that show the building’s advanced structural technologies
  • A time-lapse montage showing the evolution of the sixteen-acre site
  • Chronologies tracking design, construction, and financial milestones, with rare historic photographs
It also features extensive tour of the entire Trade Center, including in-depth chapters on Two, Three, Four, and Seven World Trade Center; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; Liberty Park; St. Nicholas National Shrine; and the soaring Transportation Hub.
One World Trade Center is the only book authorized by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and the one book necessary to understand the new World Trade Center in its totality. This is a must-have celebration of American resilience and ingenuity for all who are invested in the rebuilding of Ground Zero.
You may be surprised by what you find inside-and you will undoubtedly be inspired.

 

08/16  Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER by Judith Dupré. Little, Brown and Company (April 26, 2016). ISBN 978-0316336314. 304p.

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CHIMPANZEE by Darin Bradley

August 22, 2015
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Chimpanzee is a look at what might be the future of the U.S. based on current trends and misguided government policies. In a society that has collapsed, with unemployment being the norm for most workers Benjamin Cade an expert in cognition has just lost his job as a university instructor. Like most people he is forced to default on his loans used to finance his education. The government with no hope of recouping these funds now due to advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy can repossess their property, i.e., Ben’s education. A medical advance allows the government to utilize the process of “repossession therapy” as this is termed to treat mental disorders and improve the cure rate of these disorders.

But Ben is not going to take the loss of some of his knowledge to the government without a fight. He begins to give free lectures in the park in order to distribute some of his learning before it is gone. And as a result of these lectures “Chimpanzee” arrives. As a protest Chimpanzee’s icons begin to appear spray painted all over the city. Young people wearing Chimpanzee masks start massive rallies against the government and its economic failures. And the finger for the blame points directly at Ben.

Bradley utilizes a “stream” of consciousness” in his writing, succeeding in properly describing Ben Cade’s thoughts and action. A frightening but logical look at the possible consequences for a society that has lost sight of what are really the costs involved in massive giveaways without considering the price for doing so.  People become financially overextended and cannot buy goods and services to keep the economy healthy giving rise to a society with no way to insure the growth of that society.  A book guaranteed to leave the reader with much to think about in terms of where we might be going with trends as they currently are.

8/15 Paul Lane

CHIMPANZEE by Darin Bradley. Underland Press (August 11, 2015). ISBN: 978-1630230142. 216p.

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THE ILLUSION OF VICTORY by Thomas Fleming

August 19, 2015

ILLUSION OF VICTORYThomas Fleming, an author of both historical fiction and well researched historical tomes published this book in 2004 making it in all probability one begun in the 1990s. It is a revised look at the 1917- 1920 period in U.S. history; the period of our involvement in the First World War, the war to end all wars. He presents a portrait of Woodrow Wilson the U.S. president during that period and rakes him over the coals in no uncertain terms. Wilson won the presidential election of 1916 based on a campaign slogan of “He kept us out of war.”

A side bar to this election was the campaign of former president Teddy Roosevelt at first looking to run on the Republican ticket. At some point Roosevelt got disillusioned with the GOP and decided to run as an independent. The Republican vote than became divided between the GOP candidate and TR which threw the election to Wilson.

Seven months after his reelection Wilson went before Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany. What happened is well documented by Fleming. Wilson was courted by both sides of the combatants both promising that as a reward for entering the war with them the US would be rewarded by having a hand in the realignment of territory sure to come with victory. It is made clear that there was really no strong reason for the Americans to enter the conflict. The US was in no danger of being attacked directly by either side. Groups in America allied with both sides pressured the government; i.e. Wilson to enter the war allied with the countries they favored. Both England and Germany set up propaganda machines to concentrate on America to get them to enter the war on their side. No real reason to go to war.

One of the factors influencing Wilson was the place of an unofficial advisor: Edward M House who gave himself the title of Colonel House in spite of the fact that he had never been in the military. He had an almost hypnotic hold on Wilson who seemed to make no move without him. House had published a book called Philip Dru: Administrator, which had to do with a fictitious war between the East and West of the United States. Dru was put into power and promoted a program somewhat similar to Machiavelli’s The Prince in controlling the people. Fleming implies that House kept the character Dru in mind in his advice to Wilson.

When the US went to war on the side of England and France it was with the promise that in all likelihood American troops would not have to be sent to France to fight. Obviously not so. A more direct picture of the U.S unreadiness to fight a war was that not one single American made plane or tank entered combat.

A final note on this segment was apparently a stroke or other incapacitating physical attack that sidelined Wilson for seventeen months and allowed his second wife Edith and his personal physician to actually act as president using illegal authority. Fleming alleges that this alone allowed the victorious combatants in Europe to enact a peace treaty that placed all blame for the war on Germany and set reparations on her that crippled that country totally and led to the Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War.

Why the reading of Fleming’s book at this time will probably become apparent to the reader who should come to the realization that truly history repeats itself. Going over the contents and just changing names of the participants will bring out a picture of what could and probably is happening again. The style of writing is in no way dry and does allow the reader to enjoy only the book itself without fitting in the pieces into today’s world. Very timely again after 10 plus years since publication.

8/15 Paul Lane

THE ILLUSION OF VICTORY by Thomas Fleming. Basic Books (May 26, 2004). ISBN: 978-0465024698. 576p.