Jubilee: Recipes from two centuries of African American cooking, currently available here, breathes new life into black cookbooks and their history. Tipton-Martin describes how she scoured antique shops for forgotten books by past black cooks. Her collection of nearly 400 books, some from the early 19th century, cover an expansive culinary past. Tipton-Martin weaves history, heritage, and recipes together in a way I hadn’t experienced before.
In the chapter titled, “Liquified Soul”, Tipton-Martin tells the story of Tom Bullock, the first black bartender to publish a cocktail book titled The Ideal Bartender. Bullock, so well known for his skills, has the introduction for the book written by one of the Bushes. Jubilee includes a copy of Bullock’s mint julep recipe (pg. 79), which was wrongful attributed to someone else in The Blue Grass Cookbook. The recipe calls for easily obtained ingredients and provides great detail on how to craft the ideal cocktail.
“A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That” introduces the reader to Nicodemus, the only remaining Black town in the western United States. Established after Reconstruction, the town was hailed as a new beginning for newly emancipated families. Newcomers with limited resources took a bit of this and that to create a home of their own. Similar to the string beans a la creole recipe ((pg. 187), adapted from Bertha Turner’s cookbook, The Federation Cook Book: A Collection of Tested Recipe, Contributed by the Colored Women of the State of California. The recipe mixes fresh green beans with tomatoes and green chilies that deliver a slight kick. This dish offers an approach to green beans different than that of my own up bring, which included boiled beans with smoked ham hocks, diced potatoes, and onions. Tipton-Martin encourages the reader/cook to experiment with the recipes, by taking a bit of this and that to make it your own. Just as she has done with Jubilee.
This cookbook calls for a celebration or better yet a jubilee. Filled with culinary stories of creativity and perseverance, I’m sure it will be in regular rotation in my kitchen. Be sure to pick your own copy and relive some culinary history.