Rafia Zafar, "Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning" (U Georgia Press, 2019)


In this this interview, Dr. Carrie Tippen talks with Rafia Zafar about her 2019 book Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning, from the University of Georgia Press. It’s part of the Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People and Place series. The book contains 7 chapters, covering the earliest formally-published African-American-authored hospitality books from the 1820s to Edna Lewis’s Taste of Country Cooking from the 1970s, as well as the unpublished and incomplete cookbook of Arturo Schomburg, with many other examples in between. Each chapter examines a set of related texts in conversation with one another and the historical moment of their publication, treating cookbooks not just as archives for historical information about how people eat but also as literary, artistic, and culture-making documents. Zafar argues that cookbooks written by and for African Americans provide “recipes for respect” alongside instructions for cooking. The avenues for respect vary between authors and eras, at turns offering advice for gaining the respect of white employers or membership in the black middle-class. The act of authorship itself is presented as a way to respect and agency, leveraging domestic knowledge into public acclaim. Implicit in each of the examples is the means for generating self-respect and self-love, as cookbooks show their readers how to participate in vibrant and storied African-American foodways. Rafia Zafar is Professor of English, African and African-American Studies, and American Culture Studies at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Rafia writes about the intersection of food, authorship, and American identities, nineteenth century Black writers, and the Harlem Renaissance. She is the faculty director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.
Carrie Helms Tippen is Assistant Professor of English at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches courses in American Literature. Her new book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity (University of Arkansas Press), examines the rhetorical strategies that writers use to prove the authenticity of their recipes in the narrative headnotes of contemporary cookbooks. Her academic work has been published in Food and Foodways, American Studies, Southern Quarterly, and Food, Culture, and Society.

Your Host

Carrie Helms Tippen

Carrie Helms Tippen is Associate Professor of English and Assistant Dean of the School of Arts, Science, and Business at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches courses in American Literature.

View Profile