3 May 2022

Recipe Book Worship

Posted by the Cake Shop

A few weeks ago, Huda convinced me to go see Jessica B. Harris at the British Library. At first I was hesitant: meeting my heroes makes me shy. In 2011 I’d discovered her book, High on the Hog, on the proof shelf completely by chance. Within weeks, I had passed it on to all of my friends – Huda included – with the fervent instruction ‘you have to read this’. Now, more than ten years later, we stand together in the queue to meet Jessica in person, brimming with teenage fangirl excitement. 

‘I just wanted to say that your book changed my worldview,’ I say when I’m finally standing in front of her.

‘How so?’ she asked.

Where to begin? It opened me up to history, for starters. If I’m honest, in 2011 I hadn’t read so much about global foodways, and High on the Hog broke my heart open to a larger world perspective. Jessica traces how ingredients, cooking techniques and recipes travelled from Africa to America, through the horrors of slavery, evolving and transforming along the way in a story of courage and survival. 

I told her how I’d journeyed with the book to New Orleans, taking a road trip across the land to experience the food that she describes for myself. She asked about my tattoos, and touched my arm. Her sweet generosity and curious, inquiring mind left my synapses zinging – a truly beautiful encounter. 

Some books make us want to get up and do things, and I find that cookbooks are often best at this. They might inspire you on a journey across the world – or they might inspire you on a journey to your kitchen, to try the recipe you’ve just read about for yourself. 

Huda and I have decided that we want to share some of the recipe books we worship with you. We’re going to be choosing a recipe or two every week from a cookbook that has inspired us to action, starting with Ruby Tandoh’s latest, Cook As You Are. We’ll be posting them on Instagram, and we’ll have the cookbook up on the counter of the shop. Expect a lot of cakes – baking is what we bond over – and a lot of nerdy fangirling.

Books mentioned in this blog post