Cynthia D. Bertelsen's Gherkins & Tomatoes

A Juneteenth Commentary: Edna Lewis and the Myths Behind Southern Cooking


Powered by the mythology that has grown up around Southern food over the last several years, many voices claim ownership, hurling harsh accusations of cultural appropriation, and silencing and shaming contrary opinions. The argument is not easy to prove, as it remains hampered by a lack of statistics, contemporary documentation, and clear evidence of outright ownership of recipes.

The buzz surrounding culinary idol Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of slaves from Virginia, provides a good example of this growing mythology. Like another iconic American figure, Julia Child, Miss Lewis made invaluable contributions to the cuisine of the United States, in particular that of the American South. By recording regional recipes and telling crucially important stories about daily life in the Jim Crow era, Miss Lewis thereby initiated the current conversation about the role of black cooks in American culinary history.

For more on this, go to my expanded article at Modern Salt, “Edna Lewis and the Mythology Behind Modern Southern Food.”

Edna Lewis, Chef (Used with permission.)