Boricua Soul Cookbook Club: Jemima Code by Toni Tipton Martin

There are a lot of great cookbooks out there that go deeper than just ingredients and directions. Our favorite cookbooks tell a story that makes cooking the recipes in them a deeper experience. We are inviting you to join us in reading a cookbook then meet at the end (approx 2 months) with a 4 course pop-up dinner hosted by Boricua Soul featuring recipes or ideas inspired by the book. Even if you cannot make the dinners, join the club and be a part of the discussion.

I think a great place to start would be with Toni Tipton Martin’s The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.



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.


“Toni Tipton-Martin does a great job of setting the record straight with her book The Jemima Code . . . she classifies, introduces, explains, and puts into context many African-American cookbooks from the last hundred and fifty years or so, often illustrating the text with images and pages from the original works she discusses. She not only offers her own interpretations, but also allows readers to get a sense of the language, the style, as well as the visual and material worlds that the African-American authors of the past inhabited. Above all, Tipton-Martin demonstrates how these men and women were not victims, but expressed their own personality and agency in their work, striving to be accomplished cooks or maître d’s.” (Huffington Post)

“By illuminating the past, food activist and author Toni Tipton-Martin is reframing the future. In her new book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (the University of Texas Press), Tipton-Martin gives voice to the African Americans who worked in kitchens throughout the United States, revealing the wisdom, artistry, and values that characterize their role in culinary history. ” (Texas Highways)

JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin

Week of January 16th : Chapter 1 – 19th Century Cookbooks / Breaking a Sterotype

Week of January 22nd Chapter 2 – 1900-1925 Surviving Mammyism / Cooking Lessons for Work and Home

Week of January 29th Chapter3 – 1926-1950 The Servant Problem / Dual Messages

Week of February 6th Chapter 4 – 1952- 1960 Lifting as we Climb / Test Cakes, Finger Sandwiches, Community Service and Civil Rights

Week of February 13th Chapter 5 – 1961-1970 Soul Food / Mama’s Cooking Leaves Home for the City

Week of February 20th Chapter 6 – 1971-1980 Simple Pleasures / A Soul Food Revival

Week of February 27th Chapter 7 – 1981-1990 Mammy’s Makeover / The Ever-Useful Lift

Week of  March 6th Chapter 8 1991-2011 Sweet to the Soul / The Hope for Jemima

Find a copy of the book here




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