I have all of Edna Lewis’s books and cannot recommend them highly enough. In Pursuit of Flavor, her third title, is a celebration of the seasonal cooking she grew up with in the farming community of Freetown, Virginia. With chapters such as From the Gardens and Orchards, For the Cupboard, and The Taste of Old-Fashioned Desserts, Miss Lewis shares memories, timeless recipes, and great tips for getting the most flavor out of food.
The classic cookbook from “the first lady of Southern cooking” (NPR), featuring a new foreword by Mashama Bailey, star of Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table.
Decades before cornbread, shrimp and grits, and peach cobbler were mainstays on menus everywhere, Edna Lewis was pioneering the celebration of seasonal food as a distinctly American cuisine.
In this James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame-inducted cookbook, Miss Lewis (as she was almost universally known) shares the recipes of her childhood, spent in a Virginia farming community founded by her grandfather and his friends after emancipation, as well as those that made her one of the most revered American chefs of all time. Interspersed throughout are personal anecdotes, cooking insights, notes on important Southern ingredients, and personally developed techniques for maximizing flavor.
Across six charmingly illustrated chapters—From the Gardens and Orchards; From the Farmyard; From the Lakes, Steams, and Oceans; For the Cupboard; From the Bread Oven and Griddle; and The Taste of Old-fashioned Desserts—encompassing almost 200 recipes, Miss Lewis captures the spirit of the South. From Whipped Cornmeal with Okra; Pan-Braised Spareribs; and Benne Seed Biscuits to Thirteen-Bean Soup; Pumpkin with Sautéed Onions and Herbs; a Salad of Whole Tomatoes Garnished with Green Beans and Scallions; and Raspberry Pie Garnished with Whipped Cream, In Pursuit of Flavor is a modern classic and a timeless compendium of Southern cooking at its very best.
About the Author
Edna Lewis was born in 1916 in Freetown, Virginia, a farming community founded after the Civil War by freed slaves (among them her grandfather) and for many years lived and cooked in New York City. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the inaugural James Beard Living Legend and Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Grande Dame des Dames d’Escoffier International, and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books were inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame, and she was commemorated with a United States Postal Service postage stamp. Miss Lewis was also the author of The Edna Lewis Cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, and, with Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking. She died in February 2006.
“Lewis’s food is both subtle and elegant, made with the confidence and grace that arose from over a half-century in the kitchen. . . . Even 30 years later, Edna Lewis . . . teaches us that ‘good food simply and lovingly prepared’ will never go out of style, while reminding us that the passionate pursuit of flavor can make for one hell of a life.” —The New York Times Book Review
“In Pursuit of Flavor was my introduction to Ms. Lewis and the first African American cookbook I ever owned. It continues to fire a passion for ingredients and the joy of the journey of putting together a meal like no other work. This is culinary elegance to dance by.” —Michael W. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South
"As a young child obsessed with cookbooks, reading Miss Edna Lewis's work felt like finding my way home for the first time. As an adult who makes cookbooks, her work continues to be my north star. Her voice, her life, her beautiful and appealing recipes, and her legacy are right there in her books and it's so exciting to see the renewed energy around In Pursuit of Flavor. If you're new to Miss Lewis, get ready to meet an icon." —Julia Turshen, author of Now & Again, Feed the Resistance, and Small Victories, and founder of Equity at The Table
"Timeless . . . [this] beautiful new edition includes charming illustrations and a foreword by Savannah chef Mashama Bailey, who helms The Grey." —Southern Living
“This is a quiet book. A gentle book. A book that belongs on your kitchen shelf. From whipped cornmeal with okra, to red rice that recalls a Jolof dish, to rabbit fried in butter perfumed with country ham, this revived classic reminds us of Edna Lewis’s genius.” —John T. Edge, author The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South
“With In Pursuit of Flavor, Miss Lewis showcases her expertise and techniques by taking us on a journey through her childhood. She brings to life the entire farmland as it was seen by someone who lived off the land. She picks fruits and vegetables and shows us how to prepare them for the cupboard. She shows us how to preserve the bounty of the season for later. She takes us to the river and creeks to teach us about the local catches.” —Mashama Bailey (from the Foreword)
"I have seen no better representation of open-mindedness and the all-embracing impulse than in Edna Lewis’s cookbook In Pursuit of Flavor. . . . [Lewis] is renowned (sainted, even, and deservedly so) as the cornerstone of African-American cooking and Southern foodways. For her role in that there are no plaudits too great. She is the sine qua non.” —Max Watman, The Daily Beast
“The clean, seasonal, rustic, and thoroughly nostalgic tone of this book, even soaked in corn pudding and brisket gravy, is a distillation of Southern cooking at its best.” —Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly
“If you want to understand American food, you must first take the full measure of Southern cooking. And in order to do that, you have to spend time with Miss Lewis, one of the few cooks who belongs to the pantheon of American culture. Like Aretha Franklin singing gospel, Miss Lewis was both the inheritor of a great tradition and its most talented practitioner. Her books are national treasures, and In Pursuit of Flavor is the overlooked gem in the treasury.” —Kevin West, author of Saving the Season
"[Lewis] knew every trick in the book (because she wrote it): Season she-crab soup with roe. Punch up cheese straws with extra-sharp cheddar and cayenne. Balance a salad with both bitter and sweet greens." —Garden & Gun