Freda DeKnight, a 'Titan of African-American Cuisine'


A Date with a DishAs the recent movie 'Hidden Figures' demonstrates, African-American women have contributed greatly to the United States' success without getting much recognition for it and despite being unfairly treated. This is the case with American cookery, too. 

NPR's The Salt reminds us of another 'hidden figure', this one in the culinary sphere: Freda DeKnightBorn in 1909, DeKnight spent much of her life preserving and celebrating African-American culture and traditions. She served as the first food editor for  Ebony magazine, and used the food column to portray African-American cooking and culture in a sophisticated and glamorous manner.

In 1948, she published her only cookbook, titled A Date with a Dish. Subsequent editions were branded as The Ebony Cookbook, but in 2014 the book was reissued with its original title. DeKnight used her platform to challenge the stereotypes of black cooking, as you can see by her introduction to her cookbook: 

"It is a fallacy, long disproved, that Negro cooks, chefs, caterers and homemakers can adapt themselves only to the standard Southern dishes, such as fried chicken, greens, corn pone and hot breads. Like other Americans living in various sections of the country they have naturally shown a desire to become versatile in the preparation of any dish, whether it is Spanish, Italian, French, Balinese or East Indian in origin."

DeKnight died of complications from cancer in 1963, at the age of 54. The NPR article explores more of her history and her groundbreaking cookbook. 

2 Comments

  • Rinshin  on  2/18/2017 at 11:45 PM

    Very interesting read. Thank you.

  • lgroom  on  2/26/2017 at 7:16 PM

    Love to read this kinda stuff. Will have to share with a friend.

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