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18 Cookbooks for Building a Diverse and Just Food System

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By Danielle Nierenberg and Natalie Quathamer

For a delicious end to 2018, Food Tank is highlighting 18 cookbooks that embrace a diverse global food industry. The list features chefs of color and authors that identify as LGBTQ+ working to feed a food revolution that breaks the barriers of race, gender, and sexuality. These books examine everything from building Puerto Rican flavors, conquering the art of transforming leftovers into masterpieces, and grasping what merging queer culture and international cuisine looks—and tastes—like. Whether you cook seasonally, are on a budget, or eat plant-based, there's something here to inspire every reader to diversify their diet!


1. A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories and Recipes to Savor and Share by Diana Yen

Armed with the scrumptious arsenal of local farmers markets, maple farms and apple orchards, chef Diana Yen takes a year-long journey through food in this cookbook. Each recipe is fresh and uncomplicated, celebrating contemporary American cooking by showcasing and elevating seasonal bounty.

2. A Taste of Serendib by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Serendib, more commonly known as Sri Lanka, is an island nation with a wealth of culinary influences and plenty of fresh produce, fish and spices. Mary Anne Mohanraj uses her years of multidisciplinary writing experience to tempt our minds and taste buds with a recipe collection full of surprises.

3. Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson, with Veronica Chambers

This book invites the African diaspora to its rightful place at the table, with more than 100 recipes reflecting the continent's massive influence on international flavors and gastronomic traditions. Johnson and Smalls cook and converse with chefs of color on a culinary journey that starts on the shores of West Africa and spans to China, Brazil and the Caribbean.

4. Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing by Jerrelle Guy

Good food shapes our relationships with others, the world, and ourselves, and this cookbook helps readers build those connections over a fresh batch of Grandma's honey buns. From the hollow knock of perfectly baked bread to the aroma of fruit ideally ripe for a tart, each recipe invites us to indulge our senses in every sweet moment of the baking experience

5. Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South by Von Diaz

After a three-year exploration of her Puerto Rican roots, Diaz fuses her native dishes with the food she grew up eating in Atlanta in this recipe-packed memoir. From grits cooked in coconut milk, guava-spiked BBQ sauce and shepherd's pie with sweet plantain, each recipe expresses the comfort of a Southern kitchen infused with the island's warm tropical embrace.

6. Cooking on a Bootstrap: Over 100 Simple, Budget Recipes by Jack Monroe

Cooking with limited income doesn't have to mean limp canned vegetables and massive pots of boring stew. This recipe collection makes simplicity tasty while remaining authentic and accessible for every budget and dietary need.

7. Flavour: Eat What You Love by Ruby Tandoh

Fall back in love with food with this approachable and creative cookbook from Guardian food columnist Ruby Tandoh. Each recipe is a lesson in self-care and the pleasures of eating, inspiring readers to listen to their intuition and cook what will truly satisfy their needs.

8. Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques by Kristen Kish, with Meredith Erickson

With determination and a deep love of food, Kish celebrates her Korean heritage and American upbringing in her inaugural cookbook. The recipes reinvigorate classic ingredients and techniques with inspiring results, from searing avocado to slow baking honey chicken into crisp and caramelized submission.

9. My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen by Asha Gomez, with Martha Hall Foose

This cookbook celebrates the merging of the two Souths in Gomez's life, from her roots in Kerala, India to her home in Atlanta, Georgia. A firm understanding of American Southern cooking is emboldened by a well-yielded box of spices and ingredients from her childhood home.

10. Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers by Julia Turshen

Turshen is back inspiring home chefs to gather friends and family around the table and escape their cooking rut. Creative recipes like Italian Flag Baked Pasta are not only achievable for cooks of all skill levels but feature waste-reducing tips on how to repurpose the leftovers into an entirely new dish.

11. Our Food, Our Right: Recipes for Food Justice by Raj Patel and the Community Alliance for Global Justice

This cookbook is a delicious entry into the food justice movement. Packed with interviews from forward-thinking farmers, recipes for local and global tastes, and food growing and preservation guides, this collection will serve the conscious eater in the kitchen and the community.

12. Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food by Nik Sharma

Armed with the bold flavors of India, the familiarity of the American South, and the freshness of California, Nik Sharma warmly invites all eaters to the table in his new cookbook. Each of the 100 included recipes combines the familiar with the unexpected, surprising the home chef without being intimidating.

13. Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo

Being a Michelin Star winning chef means long hours and odd meal-times, but Anita Lo reinvigorates the empowerment of cooking for one in her latest cookbook. Every single serving recipe draws inspiration from years of cooking abroad and Lo's own personal repertoire, encouraging the reader on a journey of self-love through food.

14. The Art of Gay Cooking: A Culinary Memoir by Daniel Isengart

To this writer, chef, and cabaret artist, the kitchen is the stage, the eaters are the audience, and the ingredients are the props. Pulling gastronomic inspiration from Germany, France, and Brooklyn, Isengart puts his creative and candid culinary journey on center stage with more than 250 recipes that capture the beauty and art of food.

15. The Corners of Their Mouth: A Queer Food Zine by L.M. Zoller and Robin Elan

Birthed from the queer food blog I'll Make It Myself, this zine uses the medium of food to explore LGBTQ+ culture. More than just a cookbook, L.M. Zoller and Robin Elan invite readers into their kitchen, sharing recipes, comics, and quirky anecdotes for self-love through cooking and eating.

16. The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods by Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz

Revolutionizing an emotional cuisine like Ashkenazi while maintaining respect for tradition is tricky, but this cookbook does so seamlessly. Recipes like marble-rye challah bread and kimchi-stuffed cabbage bring the freshness of a new generation to Bubbe's kitchen with profoundly delicious results.

17. The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul by Preeti Mistry, with Sarah Henry

This up-and-coming chef celebrates her immigrant background with irresistible combinations of bold flavors influenced by Indian, African and American culinary traditions. With recipes organized by feeling rather than course, the reader will find everything from restaurant best-sellers to street food in Mistry's debut cookbook.

18. The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen by Nicole Taylor

A purveyor of unheard food stories, Nicole Taylor gets deeply personal in her new cookbook, exploring the reclamation of culinary heritage. The recipes within bridge the past and future, updating and reinventing Southern classics with new ingredients and cultural influences.

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