“Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking” by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Books, 216 pages, hardcover, $29.95

Since its opening two years ago, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. — and its Sweet Home Café — continues to draw crowds. The café showcases African-American culinary history and how it has shaped America's history.

The café was designed “to be a space for families and for conversation, where fine food allows visitors to come together, despite our contentious history to find a shared past and to work for a common future,” says the museums founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, in the opening of the newly released “Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking.”

Side Dish: Recipe for Sweet Potato Pie

Many of the book’s more than 100 recipes allow readers to recreate dishes served by the café. Other recipes are inspired by those passed down through families. The recipes also reflect culinary traditions that have influenced black cooking in America, from Africa and the Caribbean to Native Americans, Europeans, Latinos and many others from around the world.

Recipes, divided into six chapters, include salads, sides, soups, stews, main dishes, pickles, snacks, breads, sweets, drinks, and basics like Creole Spice Blend, Alabama White Barbecue Sauce and stocks. Each recipe is identified by region: Agricultural South, Café specials, continental United States, Creole coast, culinary cousins, northern states and western range. Many are illustrated with full-color photographs.

Among the recipes are Mixed Greens with Baby Turnips, Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Sénégalaise Peanut Soup, Shrimp & Grits, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Sticky Pork Ribs, Dilly Green Beans, Hot Water Cornbread, and Bourbon Pecan Pie.

“Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking” is a great choice for anyone interested in learning more about the African-American culinary heritage. Most of all, it offers great recipes for serving every day and for special occasions. For Thanksgiving, consider trying the book’s Sweet Potato Pie recipe.


Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at sonnierfood@gmail.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.