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Rufus Estes: From unknown slave to eminent chef

Rufus Estes was born a slave, but, as a free man, cooked for American presidents, foreign dignitaries and celebrities. When the Civil War ended, Estes trained as a cook, ultimately becoming a railway chef for the Pullman Co., a prestigious position for a black man so soon after Emancipation. And in 1911, he self-published a …

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Culinary biography puts Abraham Lincoln in the kitchen

Abraham Lincoln, often considered the greatest U.S. president, was also good around the house. He went marketing, milked the cow and helped with dinner. It is entirely possible that he did the dishes. “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times,” a new book by Rae Katherine Eighmey (Smithsonian Books, …

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African-American cookbooks open window to the past

Occasionally we have to change history to understand it better. Not the facts, but sometimes the recipes. I recently wrote a piece for NPR’s Kitchen Window about the earliest African-American cookbooks. Readers raised good questions about whether I should adapt recipes from these books for contemporary kitchens. I’ve thought about this as I prepare for …

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Sweet Potato-Chocolate Cake

The Kitchen Sink: Back to ‘Victory Garden Cookbook’

In January, my husband signed us up for a weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) program. Since then we have been “blessed” with an abundance of winter greens and sweet potatoes. Especially sweet potatoes. Lots of them. Big ones. I’ve put them in soup and in chili, and we’ve consumed more than a few batches of these …

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Raymond Sokolov’s 40 years in food

Raymond Sokolov is a veteran of the American food revolution. He was there when “continental” food was haute cuisine, he was there when Julia Child first cut up a chicken on TV, he was there for fast food and slow food. He ate at rarified food temples as well as a Chinese restaurant attached to …

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‘Key West Cook Book’ offers more than recipes

“It is morning – sunlight already brilliant on coral roadway and garden wall … an emerald lizard stalks his prey on the palm … The patio is still shady, so put a pale green cloth on the old iron table, and let me bring you some chilled papaya, your morning coffee Havana style if you …

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Year of the Snake: Lessons from baba and book

Baba knows best. Kimchi maker Katy Chang found a cookbook in a used-book store that proved it once and for all. The nearly 70-year-old, out-of-print “How to Cook and Eat in Chinese” reinforced what Chang learned as a child in the kitchen of her father (baba in several languages) and in the intervening years as …

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The (holiday cookbook) List

Everybody likes to find a cookbook under the tree. There’s a good crop this year. If you’re stumped for ideas, we’ve got a few suggestions. “101 Classic Cookbooks” (Rizzoli, $50) The book for people who love cookbooks. This doorstop traces the history of the modern American cookbook with essays from food luminaries such as Laura …

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Poets listen with a hungry ear

I love everything about this book and I have not read it, seen it, nor held it in my hands. And I don’t think it’s the kind of book I would download onto a Kindle. I heard about it on NPR, which does a good job with reading recommendations. It’s the kind of book you should …

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Apples with a Southern accent

In 1982, Creighton Lee Calhoun Jr. set out to track down an apple called the Magnum Bonum. The apple, a fine-textured juicy variety with white flesh, had been described to Calhoun by a neighbor who lamented that he could no longer find it. It took two years but Calhoun, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and …

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