Jubilee Cookbook Review

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Jubilee, by Toni Tipton-Martin is a celebration of 200 years of African American cooking...and teaches us it's much more diverse than soul food. Tipton-Martin gathers recipes from historical cookbooks and translates them for the modern kitchen. Often she includes an original, historic recipe, and we can see how processes and tastes have evolved through time.

In her directions, she tells us to “engage all of your senses the way my ancestors did when they cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your own preferences…these skills, often mischaracterized as a mythicized natural-born talent or a culinary ‘mystique,’ are acquired by observation and practice and intelligence. As you are guided by your senses, you will feel empowered by the skills you have mastered.” May we all feel so empowered in the kitchen, and may this book connect us to the history of American cooking.

Jubilee is organized into seven sections:

  • Appetizers: Food for Company
  • Beverages: Liquified Soul
  • Breads: The Staff of Life
  • Soups + Salads: For the Welcome Table
  • Sides + Vegetables: A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That
  • Main Dishes: Comfort in Dining
  • Desserts: The Sweet Life

My seven year old and I meal planned two feasts from this book. The first night featured Rice and Peas with Coconut, Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken, a simple salad with Garlic and Herb Dressing, and Devil’s Food Cake for a friend’s birthday. The second menu was Hibiscus Tea, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Crawfish Bisque, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Biscuits were the favorite, even more than the cake!

To cook all of the recipes in this book, you will need the following spices:

  • allspice (berries)
  • allspice (ground)
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • bay leaves
  • cayenne
  • celery salt
  • celery seeds
  • chili flakes
  • chili powder
  • chipotle powder
  • cinnamon (ground)
  • cinnamon (sticks)
  • cloves (ground)
  • cloves (whole)
  • coriander (ground)
  • cumin (ground)
  • curry powder
  • dill weed
  • garlic granules
  • garlic salt
  • ginger (ground)
  • hibiscus
  • jerk rub (or she gives a recipe to make your own)
  • marjoram
  • nutmeg (grated) or mace
  • onion granules
  • onion salt
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • paprika (smoked)
  • pepper (ground)
  • peppercorns
  • pickling spice
  • poultry seasoning
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • salt (kosher flake)
  • sesame seeds
  • vanilla extract
  • thyme
  • west indies curry
  • white pepper

Other pantry ingredients you might need: capers, liquid hickory smoke, Scotch bonnet peppers.

Jubilee was my surprise favorite cookbook of 2020. I purchased it as a gift for a friend who works at a local historical society; I thought a book that traces the evolution of cooking in America would be most interesting to her. But I quickly found out while thumbing through, it's relevant to all of us (and quickly ordered myself a copy). Jubilee and Victuals are the most "American" cookbooks I own; cooking these recipes that have been passed down through generations of African Americans—and reading the accompanying stories—illustrates where our country came from and offer inspiration about where we can go. 

“I hope that by the time you finish cooking your way through Jubilee, you will think of African American cooking like a sultry gumbo: built, perhaps, on a foundation of humble sustenance, but layered with spice, flavors, and aromas, and embellished by the whim and the skills of the cook, served with grace and richness as well as love.” -Tipton-Martin

January 22, 2021 — Beth Weisberger

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