What We’re Reading: April Cookbook Releases

By: The Local Palate

From Black barbecue to inventive cocktails, these three cookbook releases are on our must-read list 

Black Smoke: Africa Americans and the United States of Barbecue 

Adrian Miller
The University of North Carolina Press

Adrian Miller, author of Soul Food, has a track record for delivering smart, nuanced research about food and history, which he delivers with delicious wit in Black Smoke. A much-needed addition to the barbecue canon, Miller explores the world of Black barbecue. He goes back to investigate both the Native American and Black contributions to America’s most beloved style of cooking to drill down to barbecue’s origins. He tracks the Black influence on America’s early barbecue experts and he moves through time to discuss connections to church and community, today’s current barbecue climate, and even the competition circuit. Throughout, he profiles a number of black barbecue experts, like Ernestine VanDuvall, an experienced barbecue cook and gospel singer from Nicodemus, Kansas, who catered and opened her own restaurant in 1975. While other barbecue books share knowledge in the form of recipes and steps, or history as told from a white perspective, Miller gets us closer to seeing the full picture, and to acknowledging that the story is richer, and more delicious, with these shared stories. 

Just a Few Miles South: Timeless Recipes From our Favorite Places 

Ouita Michel, Sara Gibbs, and Genie Graf
Fireside Industries, The University Press of Kentucky

Chef Ouita Michel is more than Kentucky’s most beloved chef—she’s also its dining bedrock. All seven restaurants and cafes spread across the mid-state, including her flagship Holly Hill Inn, eschew fast and convenient for slow, thoughtful fare. She is faithful to Kentucky products—from grits to flour to local pork and beef—as well as the lands that surround and define her quirky, off-the-beaten-path spaces. In Just a Few Miles South, Michel joyfully honors the region with well-tested recipes culled from all of her properties—sandwiches, po boys, and burgers each get their own chapter, as do breakfast, soups, stews, and salads, and pie suppers (a local fundraising tradition). Unique illustrations, rather than photos, round out the book, giving it the same timeless feel Michel evokes in her restaurants. Fans will appreciate recipes for tried-and-true classics like the Sardou Panini, the Wallace cubano, and Honeywood’s hoecake burger.

Pantry Cocktails: Inventive Sips from Everyday Staples 

Katherine Cobbs
Tiller Press

While most of us probably got to know the contents of our pantry, as well as our home bars, more intimately in the past year, Katherine Cobbs took that exploration to the next level by combining the two. Compelled by the times, she started opening the many jars of jams, preserves, sauces, and juices from her stash and experimenting with them in cocktails. The result: A book of clever, unique cocktail recipes that utilize a host of unexpected ingredients. If you’re looking to shake up your home bartending game, drinks like the Blackberry Sidebar (featuring blackberry jam and brandy) and a Buzzed Café Cassis (it starts with a ras el hanout coffee blend) will have you digging through the cabinets and spice jars. Cobbs comes at it with a practical approach, but gets inventive with the classics—a Kimchi Vesper might forever change your tune. A selection of snacks and nibbles rounds out the recipes. 

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