Uncovering the Myths of the “Founding Mother” Cuisine: A Few Words About England, Africa, and a Bibliography

I’ll admit it, I spend a lot of time compiling bibliographies. For me, there’s something inherently satisfying about seeing a list of references all lined up, like bunches of beautiful flowers waiting to be picked.

For my latest project – reflecting on the influence of English cooking on American cuisine, I’ve augmented a previous bibliography of cookbooks related to the cuisines of Africa.


These days, many writers working in food claim that African slave cooks created what is ambiguously known as American cuisine, which – for the record – now comprises a large number of dishes from a large number of cuisines; after all, we ARE a nation made up of people from all over the globe. Some arrived on these shores willingly and happily, others not, including those forced, either through indentured servitude or slavery.

In spite of those hands that stirred pots in a multitude of kitchens, their own or others, the “founding mother” of American cuisine was undeniably that of the English kitchen, itself which evolved due to numerous influences as well. But for a long time, chiefly until the huge influx of immigrants in the nineteenth century, the English way predominated.

Take note: This is not to deny the importance of other contributions, which I want to make emphatically clear. However, I do believe that it’s becoming necessary to dissect the claims that any one group other than the English held dominant sway in the kitchens of the English colonies and later.

To examine all this requires a number of tools, including both period and modern cookbooks, travelers’ accounts, ships’ manifests, lists of trade items, and archaeological evidence, etc., in the form of material culture, bones, and botanical remains. Some secondary sources are useful as well, providing analysis and raising questions, sometimes providing answers. It’s necessary to establish a baseline, as much as is possible, before going off and making claims about this or that influence. One of the first steps is to look at both English and African culinary practices prior to European contact. And that, of course, involves the Portuguese, who began exploring the Atlantic coast of Africa in 1418, almost two hundred years prior to the establishment of Jamestown.

My hypothesis, coming from the nutrition scientist in me, is that English cuisine is indeed the “founding mother” of so-called “American” (U.S.) cuisine, with a lot of aunts and cousins surrounding and supporting the Grande Dame. And I strive to prove that hypothesis wrong, in keeping with the best scientific practices.

The following list, as is true of any bibliography, is not complete, and never will be. Note too that I’ve excluded works from South Africa. There’s a drawback to using many of these cookbooks as references, of course, due to the fact that during the colonial period of the so-called long nineteenth century, European influences took hold.


Akwaaba: A Taste of Ghana, by Sandra Amoako

Ultimate Nigerian Cookbook, by Chy Anegbu

Nigerian Cookbook, by H. O. Anthonio

A Slice of Africa: Exotic West African Cuisines, by Chidi Asika-Enahoro

The Art of West African Cooking, by Dinah Ameley Ayensu

Isi Cookbook: Collection of Easy Nigerian Recipes, by Iswat Badiru

Physics in the Nigerian Kitchen: The Science, the Art, and the Recipes, by Deji and Iswat Badiru

The Gold Coast Cookery Book, by British Red Cross Society (Gold Coast Branch)

Malawi’s Traditional and Modern Cooking, by Chitukuko Cha Amai m’Malawi (CCAM)

The Gambian Cookbook, by Micelle Daryanani and Shakhil Shah

What’s Cooking Today: Recipes Used Around Sierra Leone, by Muriel Emekunle Davies

Ghanaian Favourite Dishes, by Alice Dede

Popular Ghanaian Dishes, by Sylvia Eshun

Principles of Cooking in West Africa: Learn the Heritage of African Foo Foo and Soup Cooking, by Raymond Essang

A Taste of The Gambia: Gambian and International Recipes, by Adele Njie Faye

Karibu: Welcome to the Cooking of Kenya, by Ann Gardner

Taste of Uganda: Recipes for Traditional Dishes, by Jolly Gonahasa

Traditional African Recipes: Authentic dishes from all over Africa adapted for the Western kitchen – all shown step by step in 300 simple-to-follow photographs, by Rosamund Grant

Best of Regional African Cooking, by Harva Hachten

A Taste of Africa, by Dorinda Hafner

Modern Zanzibar Cuisine, by Benn Haidari

The Africa Cookbook, by Jessica Harris

A Zimbabwean Cookery Book, by Yvonne Hayward, ed.

African Recipes: Liberian Cooking, by Selena Hoffman

The Africa News Cookbook, by Tami Hultman

Recipes from the Kenya Coast, by Samira Hyder

South of the Sahara: Traditional Cooking from the Lands of West Africa, by Elizabeth A. Jackson

A Taste of Zanzibar, by Javed Jafferji

Zainabu’s African Cookbook with Food and Stories, by Zainabu Kpaka Kallon

Tastes of Africa, by Justice Kamanga

A Taste of Kenyan Cooking, by Adil Karimbux

The Modern African Vegetable Cookbook, by Barbara Kimenye

Taste of Tanzania: Modern Swahili Recipes for the West, by Miriam R. Kinunda

Contemporary Nigerian Cuisine, by Funke Koleosho

Swahili Kitchen, by Elie Loseleben and Javed Jafferji

All Nigerian Recipes Cookbook, by Flo Madubike

Foods of Sierra Leone and Other West African Countries, by Rachel C. J. Massaquoi

The African Heritage Cookbook, by Helen Mendes

African Flavors: Recipes with Proverbs, by Annetta Miller

Zanzibar Traditional Cookery, by Amir A. Mohamed

Cooking the East African Way, by Bertha Vining Montgomery

Cooking the West African Way, by Bertha Vining Montgomery

A Safari of African Cooking, by Bill Odarty

Classic Zairian Cooking, by Matanda Odya

“My Cooking” West-African Cookbook, by Dokpe L. Ogunsanya

Traditional African Cooking, by Ola Olaore

The Ghana Cookbook, by Fran Osseo-Asare

Authentic African Cuisine from Ghana, by David Otoo

African Cookbook: Recipes from Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya, by Rachel Pambrun

Kenyan Cookbook: A Beginner’s Guide, by Rachel Pambrun

Angolan African Recipes Cuisine, by Patricia Pascoal

Tanzania Cookbook, by Eva Pendaeli-Sarakikya

The Soul of a New Cuisine, by Marcus Samuelsson

The Imperial African Cookery Book: Recipes from English-Speaking Africa, by Will Sellick

Alice Taabu’s Cookery Book, by Alice Taabu

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed, by Bryant Terry

Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, by Pierre Thiam

Yolele: Recipes from the Heart of Senegal, by Pierre Thiam

The Kudeti Book of Yoruba Cookery, by E. M. Tooleyo and J. A. Mars (first published in 1934)

African Cooking, by Laurens van der Post

Manna from the Motherland, by Tee-Tee Weisel

Miss Williams’ Cookery Book [Nigeria], by R. O Williams

A West African Cookbook, by Ellen Gibson Wilson

Recipes from Bechuanaland, by Women’s Institute Francistown

A Few Secondary Sources of Note:

Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas, by Judith A. Carney

In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World, by Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff

The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connction, by Karen Hess

West African Food in the Middle Ages, by Tadeusz Lewicki

Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000, by James C. McCann

Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine, by James C. McCann

(The photograph in the masthead is of the first landing site on Cape Henry in Virginia, where the original Jamestown settlers came ashore before piling back onto their tiny wooden boats and made their way up the James River to Jamestown. Photo credit: C. Bertelsen, October 2015)

©  2015 C. Bertelsen


4 thoughts on “Uncovering the Myths of the “Founding Mother” Cuisine: A Few Words About England, Africa, and a Bibliography

  1. By the 16th century the introduction of Central/South American foods like hot peppers, potatoes and tomatoes dramatically influenced cuisines worldwide. I can’t imagine what the foods of India, East Asia, Europe and Africa would be like today without these ingredients.


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