Journalist and writer Toni Tipton-Martin discusses African-American cookbooks for Soul Food Week

Writer and journalist Toni Tipton-Martin discusses African-American cookbooks, and the women who wrote them. PHOTO BY GALE WHITEHEAD

For more than 30 years, author, journalist and previous white house guest Toni Tipton-Martin said she has four passions: journalism, cook books, the African-American women behind these cook books and teaching young people about health.

Tipton-Martin discussed her life, African-American female cooks and her own organization, the Sande Youth Project, at the event Mind, Body, & Soul Food. The event was hosted by the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) at 6 p.m. on Feb. 28 in the Sunnen Lounge.

Tipton-Martin grew up in Los Angeles, Calif. She said her love of journalism started at a young age.

“When I was in elementary school, we had a school newspaper and I was editor-in-chief,” Tipton-Martin said.

After high school, Tipton-Martin majored in journalism at the University of Southern California (USC). She had a job at a small newspaper her sophomore year.

“It was such an honor at a young age and while my classmates were in school, looking for the work in the field, I was actually getting my foot in the door,” Tipton-Martin said.

After graduating from USC at the age of 24, Tipton-Martin started work in the food department at the Los Angeles Times.

“While working at LA Times, they had a library full of cook books, but I didn’t see any books by African-Americans,” said Tipton-Martin.

She said she searched the LA Times’ library for southern books and was disgusted at what she saw.

“When I looked at these books I saw photos of African-American women being portrayed as the Mammy stereotype,” Tipton-Martin said. “The black women where fat, really black, and ugly. And I know that I or any other woman doesn’t look like that.”

The only cookbook she found by an African-American woman was a New Orleans cookbook by Lena Richards.

“I knew I had to find more African-American women that were cooks,” said Tipton-Martin. “But I wanted to find the stories of these women.  Even though the women wrote these books, I had to find their voices.”

During her years of researching African-American cookbooks, she ordered many cookbooks on eBay. She currently has 300 cookbooks by African-American women.

“Some I had to fight for, but I’m glad that I have them,” said Tipton-Martin.

She found a cookbook by Mammy Pleasant, a wealthy woman. Tipton-Martin said a lot of people don’t know that Mammy Pleasant was also a Voodoo Queen.

Tipton-Martin said some of the female African-American cooks had cooking schools, one of which was the Bethune Cookman College.

Tipton-Martin is the founder of the Sande Project, a non-profit organization.

“Sande is an West-African term, in which the women took the young girls out of the village and taught them about life,” Tipton-Martin said. “The organization is to help young children eat well, and know what was in their food.”

Tipton-Martin said that one the worst things in food today is corn syrup.

“When the children hear this, they’re like, ‘What! Ouch!’” Tipton-Martin said.

Tipton-Martin is the author of three cookbooks. She is currently writing another book, which will tell the stories of some African-American female cooks.



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