Author Sarah Franklin describes cookbooks as having a “quiet power” within their pages. More than just a collection of recipes that provide fuel for the body, the pages of cookbooks tell stories of place, politics, culture, and society. Women, in particular, have used cookbooks as vessels for acts of resistance, self-expression, reclamation, and celebration of identity. Unlike other sources of media, cookbooks are welcomed into the kitchens of cooks from all walks of life and value sets. The kitchen might be the first place to start the work of diversifying the types of media we consume and the voices we elevate.

Things to Consider

  • Compilation: Will this be a compiled cookbook (think church-community cookbooks) or a cookbook where one editor creates a cohesive narrative.
  • Format: How will the stories take shape– a headnote, a blog-like narrative, biographical information, and photos?
  • Publication: Will this be self-published in print, digitally published, published by a traditional publishing house?
  • Organization: How will recipes be organized– by course, season, contributor, region?
  • Contributors: Who will be included and how will this be decided?
  • Marketing: How will you call attention to and distribute this cookbook so that the voices in it can reach home cooks?


  • Type of media that is welcomed to all different types of homes and accessible to many audiences, not constrained to the academic sphere
  • Home cooking is a constant and home cooks are becoming more open to trying new recipes and welcoming new voices into their kitchens
  • The story does not stop at the narrative but can be expressed through the ingredients, methods, and finally in the consumption of the food.
  • The narrator and cook form a unique connection where the narrator is nourishing the cook with their words and food
  • There is space for beautiful photography and artwork and no limit to the format the publication can take– some cookbooks are meant to be cooked from, others meant to be read and perused
  • Possible to independently publish or make a digital copy to avoid barriers set in place by large publishers



  • Potential to be incredibly costly and labor-intensive
  • Requires social capital and connection to be picked up by a formal publisher
  • Limit to who can be included
  • Gatekeepers in the publishing world who dictate how a cookbook should look and be laid out or if something should even be considered a cookbook

” A cookbook is a book where you know the story’s going to end well. We have this ability to share stories and messages in cookbooks. For me, that means sharing myself and showing up as my full self, which has led to many incredibly meaningful connections with other people.”

Julia Turshen, Cookbook Author

Narrative Cookbooks to Explore

Name Description Link
Afro-vegan Farm-fresh African, Caribbean, And Southern Flavors Remixed Cookbook by chef and author Bryant Terry, reclaiming African American and southern food
Bread is Gold Inspired by community soup kitchen in Milan that invited famous chefs to cook, recipes utilizing simple ingredients to make delicious dishes by the visiting chefs, compiled by Massimo Bottura
Community Cookbooks: An Online Collection Enormous digitized collection of community cookbooks from around the country over many years
Decolonize Your Diet: Mexican-American Plant-Based Recipes for Health and Healing Cookbook by Mexican-American authors, challenging the industrial and colonial food system by returning to indigenous recipes
Dish’D: Stories & Recipes of Detroit Home Cooks Recipes from the featured chefs of Dinner for 30 dinner storytelling series
Family Meal: Recipes from Our Community Digital compilation of recipes from famous chefs and food personalities, created to support restaurant worker relief fund during COVID-19
Feed the Resistance Collection of recipes, essays, and tools to support community activism and resistance by cooks, writers, entrepreneurs, organizers, and activist compiled by cookbook Author Julia Turshen
In Bibi’s Kitchen The Recipes And Stories Of Grandmothers From The Eight African Countries That Touch The Indian Ocean Grandmothers from eight African countries share stories and recipes with Somali chef Hawa Hassan and cookbook writer Julia Turshen
In Her Kitchen Stories and recipes from grandmother around the world, compiled by photographer
Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook Collection of recipes from African American cooks, many of whom have been forgotten by history until now as Toni Tipton-Martin gives them a voice in the pages of this cookbook
Serving New York: For All The People Who Make NYC Dining Unforgettable Digital compilation of pantry friendly recipes from well known NYC restaurants, created to support NYC restaurant workers during COVID-19
The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking From Around the World Recipes and stories from immigrant women who are part of the Hot Bread Kitchen culinary training program in NYC
The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Made America Great Collection of recipes from celebrated immigrant chefs, published to challenge anti-immigrant sentiments in the US
The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks A collection of excerpts, covers, recipes, and commentary on 150 black cookbooks that go back as far as 1827 compiled to explore the incredible impact African Americans had on food culture and cuisine of the United States
Together: Our Community Cookbook Collection of recipes and stories by immigrant women who are part of Hubb Community Kitchen in London
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes Cookbook that captures the spirit of Appalachia with extensive narrative and stories about the food and residents of the region, recipes from local chefs and other residents
We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream Compiled cookbook featuring the stories and recipes of entrepreneurs who are part of the La Cocina business incubation program. Recipes organized by person not by ingredient, course, season, etc

Franklin, S. B. (2018). Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original. University of North Carolina Press.