It's not uncommon for me to get excited about a recipe, but a cookbook is a different story. I can easily find something in a book that makes me glad I picked it up but I haven't had a whole book get me interested like this one. America I Am is a line of books catering to the history of African Americans. Pass It Down shares African American recipes old and new.
I'm not African American but there was something about the description of this cookbook that I liked. It's old Southern recipes (hubby's family is from the south) and maybe something I could add to my growing collection of recipes for my husband. What I didn't expect is a look into the life and history of food for those who came from Africa to America. I learned more than I thought possible from a cookbook.
To start with, the book talks about how plantation owners choose slaves from various regions of Africa for their knowledge of certain crops, rice being a big one. Now I'm no agricultural dummy but that surprised me. I didn't even know we grew rice in the US. That was it, I was hooked in the history of food in America.
Then came the next "story" about a man who converted to Judaism and re-discovered his heritage through food. That was it, I couldn't put it down. We forget, in this day and age of fast food and busy schedules, how much of our history comes from the kitchen. This book was a great reminder. There were tales of food as a catalyst for civil rights. Cooking and gardens as tools to better communities. Ways to teach our children to not only cook but to preserve their history.
As if that wasn't enough, there are amazing Soul Food recipes. Many I can't wait to try in my own kitchen. My favorites - recipes written by George Washington Carver to promote peanuts (peanut doughnuts, anyone?). I have to admit he has got to be my favorite unrecognized historical figure. I owe that man most of my diet since, to me, peanut butter is a must and it made my pregnancy that much easier. I may have to find a time machine and send that man a letter of thanks (or maybe to his descendants).
You know, I may be a foodie and I love learning about food in history but this book should be required reading for everyone who calls themself an American. We have so much to thank those who came before us and to honor them, we need to remember what we have that they gave us.