Cook the Book: Jubilee
by Toni Tipton-Martin
When I first got my hands on a copy of Toni Tipton-Martin’s cookbook Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, in 2019, I teared up. Having met Tipton-Martin (now the editor in chief of Cook’s Country Magazine) and heard her speak about her journey of collecting, researching, and analyzing historical African-American cookbooks for her first book, The Jemima Code, I could feel the weight of decades of energy, passion, and research that Tipton-Martin poured into the pages. Where The Jemima Code reveals the untold stories of Black cooks and authors, Jubilee carries their legacies forward by reclaiming their recipes and repositioning them for modern home cooks.
With Jubilee, Tipton-Martin writes that she, “tried to honor the kind of joyous cooking that would have turned yesterday’s enslaved and free cooks into today’s celebrity chefs with glittering reputations grounded in restaurant fare and cookbook publishing.” These recipes show that refined cooking fulfilled lives and sustained African-American communities—they “break the soul code,” as she writes.
I cooked from Tipton-Martin’s book immediately (her sweet potato casserole and baked macaroni and cheese are now on my Thanksgiving table every year) and turned to it again and again during and after pandemic quarantining. Now, I’ve got several of her recipes on speed dial, and the more I dig into the book, the more enamored I become, especially as I read and re-read her delicious headnotes. When I mix up mint juleps for every viewing of the Kentucky Derby, Tipton-Martin reminds me that it was Tom Bullock, an African-American bartender who developed a version of the distinctive mint julep recipe we mix up today. When pulling together a batch of Savannah pickled shrimp, I learn about Daisy Redman, an extravagant caterer who, along with other renowned caterers, put together a book called Four Great Southern Cooks, and did her own style of shrimp marinated in vinegar overnight.
It’s through these stories that a more robust picture of the legacy of African-American cooking comes to light—and gives me a deeper appreciation for Tipton-Martin’s dedication to furthering the story of Black food.
Tipton-Martin called on the “spice-blending prowess” of Caribbean cooks to develop this version of “West Indies Pork”—it includes warming allspice and ginger, as well as a little rum, and packs a powerful punch.
I’ve loved greens wilted in bacon grease since my grandfather taught me to eat them when I was little. Tipton-Martin’s version uses a mix of tender greens like spinach, arugula, and chard, which are vitamin rich and stand up to a warm, bacon fat-based dressing.
There are any number of ways to fry chicken but this version produces a good, crackly crust thanks to a roll through crushed cracker meal. There’s also a good dose of paprika and garlic powder for good measure.
Reprinted with permission from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Jerrelle Guy. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
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