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Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage: Two Hundred Years of Southern Cuisine and Culture

by John van Willigen

Availablepaperback$24.95 978-0-8131-7849-3
Availablecloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-4689-8
306 pages  Pubdate: 08/13/2019  6 x 9  33 b&w photos

Food is a significant part of our daily lives and can be one of the most telling records of a time and place. Our meals—from what we eat, to how we prepare it, to how we consume it—illuminate our culture and history. As a result, cookbooks present a unique opportunity to analyze changing foodways and can yield surprising discoveries about society’s tastes and priorities.

In Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage, John van Willigen explores the state’s history through its changing food culture, beginning with Lettice Bryan’s The Kentucky Housewife (originally published in 1839). Considered one of the earliest regional cookbooks, The Kentucky Housewife includes pre–Civil War recipes intended for use by a household staff instead of an individual cook, along with instructions for serving the family. Van Willigen also shares the story of the original Aunt Jemima—the advertising persona of Nancy Green, born in Montgomery County, Kentucky—who was one of many African American voices in Kentucky culinary history.

Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage is a journey through the history of the commonwealth, showcasing the shifting priorities and innovations of the times. Analyzing the historical importance of a wide range of publications, from the nonprofit and charity cookbooks that flourished at the end of the twentieth century to the contemporary cookbook that emphasizes local ingredients, van Willigen provides a valuable perspective on the state’s social history.

John van Willigen is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Kentucky and the author of many books, including Food and Everyday Life on Kentucky Family Farms, 1920–1950.

Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage contains a great deal of fascinating information that will be of interest to the general public as well as to individuals interested in cookbooks in general and in American culinary history. -- Lucy Long, author of Culinary Tourism

It takes a gifted anthropologist and food expert—and John van Willigen is both—to make Kentucky's priceless culinary heritage clear. For example, the eye-popping range of ingredients and sophisticated preparations John discovered in Kentucky's earliest cookbook changed forever how I think about Kentucky food and its history. I followed happily along this unprecedented, guided, 175-year taste journey, all the way to new Kentucky foods like freshwater shrimp. A friendly, engaging, delicious read. -- Rona Roberts, host of Savoring Kentucky and author of Sweet, Sweet Sorghum: Kentucky's Golden Wonder

"I am a huge fan of John’s previous work 'Food and Everyday Life on Kentucky Family Farms, 1920-1950' and was honored to review an early draft of this fascinating new book. His examination of the evolution of Kentucky cookbooks through numerous lenses is unique. Not only does he look at recipe evolution through societal and cultural changes such as pre and post-civil war cookbooks but also how the actual equipment available to the home cook impacted the recipes. From hearth cooking on an open fire to wood and coal fired stoves, to gas and urban and rural electrification and even microwaves John shows how the recipes have evolved to take advantage of each new fangled appliance." - Bob Perry, Chief in Residence, Dietetics and Human Nutrition, University of Kentucky

"Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage" deserves a place on the shelf beside your favorite cookbooks. -- Janet Haynes -- Bowling Green Daily News

"Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage" is not simply a cookbook. Yes there are recipes in it--but it's much more than that. -- Lee and J.J. MacFadden -- Bristol Herald-Courier

Our local food is a staple each southerner is proud of and in John Van Willigen's Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage, he proves just this. Van Willigen is the first to focus on and analyze the significance of the cookbooks of Kentucky. Through these cookbooks, he traces the changes in Kentucky culture and history through the way people treated the food they ate and how that impacted one’s life. -- Tennessee Libraries

Van Willigen's Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage: Two Hundred Years of Southern Cuisine and Culture (2014) is an impressive tour-de-force of the history of Kentucky's cookbook culture.
Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage is brightly written for an intelligent, involved general audience. It should have value both for home cooks interested in the history and politics of regional foodways and for historians who cook. The book should also appeal to folklorists, Americanists, and scholars of popular literature and food culture.
Kentucky's Cookbook Heritage is a delightful, chock-full survey of the region's cookbook cultures and traditions that combines smart argument, local color and ample human interest. -- Digest: A Journal of Foodways & Culture

The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for the James Mooney Award for its contribution to anthropological scholarship on the South and Southerners. The Mooney Award was created to recognize and encourage distinguished anthropological scholarship on the South and Southerners. Presented annually, the award includes a $500 cash prize and certificate of recognition to be presented to the winning author at an awards ceremony. In addition, an Honorable Mention Award includes a certificate of recognition. It was created in honor of James Mooney, the prominent American ethnographer who lived with the Cherokee people during the late nineteenth century. -- Broadway World

The Southern Anthropological Society has recognized Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage: Two Hundred Years of Southern Cuisine and Culture for an honorable mention for the James Mooney Award for its contribution to anthropological scholarship on the South and Southerners. -- Kentucky Standard