It's not often that I get emotionally involved in a cookbook, but the stories at the front of this book really touched me. The history of the women, the reasons why they cooked the way they did, and the emotional ties to food, cooking, and kitchens is a huge part of why I love this book.
And it's that history that makes the recipes make sense. Because on first glance, I wasn't sure how an avocado salad fit into a soul food cookbook.
Caroline Randall Williams is the now-generation of a long line of black women who grew large as they grew older. She decided to break that cycle and eat healthy while keeping her soul food heritage, and she also wanted to help her mom break out of the cycle as well.
I generally shy away from diet books or those that claim to be healthy because they often tend to eliminate food groups, embrace fads, or feel like deprivation. This book is none of that. It's good food that you can eat almost every day, with a few indulgences thrown in.
But, as she points out, the food that many know as soul food - rich and salty and fatty - was not meant to be everyday food - it was celebration food. And if you eat celebration food every day, it becomes less special.
Salmon Croquettes are one example of a well-loved family recipe that she updated. My own mother also used to make something similar, although in my house they were simply called salmon patties. Williams noted that in "back in the day," the salmon croquettes were filled with rich binders and fried in an inch of bacon grease, while these patties use egg as the binder and are seared in olive oil.
I like her version better.
Williams noted that this book has recipes that you can make without requiring trips to fancy food stores, and without ordering online. You can make these whether you shop at Walmart or Whole Foods, whichever fits your budget or your mood.
I like that. While I love hunting for new ingredients, I also like making easy and approachable dishes that I can decide to make, shop for, and have on the table in the same day. I've got a handful of recipes bookmarked - including that Salmon Croquette recipe, and others that will have to wait for summer produce to hit the markets and a salad that might show up on the Easter table this year.
As soon as I've got a recipe to show off, I'll have it over at Cookistry. Stay tuned for that.
I received Soul Food Love from the publisher at no cost to me.