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African American cooks were not strangers in the kitchens of the Old South, but white southerners often failed to acknowledge their contributions. One of the first exceptions was Kentucky socialite Minnie C. Fox, who recognized the significant influence and importance of the African American cooks and wrote The Blue Grass Cook Book, first published in 1904.
From biscuits and hams to ice creams and puddings, this cookbook is a collection of over three hundred recipes from family and friends, including black cooks, near Minnie Fox’s Bourbon County, Kentucky, family estate and her Big Stone Gap, Virginia, home. In Fox’s time, the culinary history of black women in the South was usually characterized by demoralizing portraits of servants toiling in “big house” kitchens. In contrast, The Blue Grass Cook Book, with its photographs of African American cooks at work and a passionate introduction by Fox’s brother, respected Kentucky novelist John Fox Jr., offers insight into the complex bond between well-to-do mistresses and their cooks at the turn of the century.
Toni Tipton-Martin’s new introduction provides in-depth commentary on the social, cultural, and historical context of this significant cookbook. She presents background information on the Fox family and their apparently uncommon appreciation for the African Americans of their time. She reveals the vital role of the black cooks in the preparation and service required in establishing the well-known Southern hospitality tradition.
“Austin food writer and historian Martin has written a thoughtful and revealing introductory essay about black-and-white culinary interactions in this re-released 1904 classic of long-vanished Kentucky culture and cuisine.”—Austin Chronicle
“Many of these [recipes] must be veritable heirlooms, precious souvenirs of the past, the originals of which were in faded ink, just as they were inscribed by loving hands of mothers and grandmothers.”—New York Times, 1904
“Fox's book is steeped in nostalgia. . . . Imagining the aroma and taste of those things served up in a skillet a hundred years ago, and remembering the mostly thankless sacrifice of those who served it forth, are enough to make the book a gripping read”—BookForum
“Those of us who look to cookbooks for history as well as recipes have a wonderful treat in store.”—Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin
“Gives credit where credit is due by outlining the ways in which African-American cooks have formed the shape of Southern cuisine.”—Floyd County Times
“The increasing interest in regional and ethnic American culinary history is well served by this edition of Minnie Fox's The Blue Grass Cook Book, a work whose origins and recipes deserve to be better known. The University Press of Kentucky and Toni Tipton-Martin, who has written a thought-provoking introduction, are to be congratulated. Ms Tipton-Martin has unearthed new information on the historical context of this American classic. Especially useful are the hitherto unknown details about both the black cooks whose portraits illustrate the volume and the members of the white Kentucky and western Virginia aristocracy who contributed recipes.”—Jan Longone, Curator of American Culinary History, Clements Library University of Michigan
“Toni Tipton-Martin has shone a bright light on a neglected classic.”—John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance
“Accolades to Toni Tipton-Martin for giving long overdue credit to the contribution black women have made to our Southern foodways, culture and hospitality.”—Sharon Thompson, food editor, Lexington Herald-Leader
“This century-old treasure of Southern cooking attests to the rich contribution of African Americans to a storied cuisine. Its author, Minnie Fox, and her author brother, who wrote the introduction, were probably the first Southern whites ever to acknowledge the role of black culinary genius.”— Sidney W. Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
“Of all the old cookbooks in my collection, this remains one of my all-time favorites. And what a delightful surprise it was to learn that it is now being reissued with new material about Minnie Fox and her troupe of kitchen assistants. At last, we learn something about her and the complex culinary world that characterized Kentucky at the turn of the twentieth century. This new edition is a must for anyone interested in the development of American cookery and the important contributions of African Americans.”—William Woys Weaver, Contributing Editor, Gourmet Magazine
""The Blue Grass Cook Book combines history with wonderful old recipes and is a great addition for any cook book collection.”—Back Home in Kentucky
“Brings new light to a neglected classic and offers a portrait of a unique and now-vanished culinary culture.--Morgan Messenger
“What makes this cookbook so exceptional is that the featured dishes are all placed in their proper historic context. This collection is the next best thing to observing the cooking in a traditional Southern kitchen more than 100 years ago.”— Florida Weekly
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Kentucky, Cookbooks, Culinary history, African American history
Fox, Minnie C., "The Blue Grass Cook Book" (1904). Cultural History. 14.