What the Slaves Ate: Recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from the Slave Narratives

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $78.15
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (3) from $78.15   
  • Used (3) from $78.15   


Carefully documenting African American slave foods, this book reveals that slaves actively developed their own foodways-their customs involving family and food. The authors connect African foods and food preparation to the development during slavery of Southern cuisines having African influences, including Cajun, Creole, and what later became known as soul food, drawing on the recollections of ex-slaves recorded by Works Progress Administration interviewers. Valuable for its fascinating look into the very core of slave life, this book makes a unique contribution to our knowledge of slave culture and of the complex power relations encoded in both owners' manipulation of food as a method of slave control and slaves' efforts to evade and undermine that control.

While a number of scholars have discussed slaves and their foods, slave foodways remains a relatively unexplored topic. The authors' findings also augment existing knowledge about slave nutrition while documenting new information about slave diets.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This fascinating anthropological documentary excavates 1930s WPA-funded interviews to find the testimony of former slaves on the subject of food's role in daily life. In 12 absorbing, essay-style chapters, Covey (African American Slave Medicine) and independent scholar Eisnach explore how food was used to reinforce power relationships, how slave recipes gradually entered plantation kitchens, and how the Civil War changed entrenched traditions. Fourteen appendixes, categorized by food type, list specific ingredients mentioned by interview subjects and indicate the subject's home state, a record that facilitates awareness of regional customs.'



Library Journal

"This book is among the first to explore the diet and cooking behaviors of American slaves through the use of first-person narratives as opposed to archaeological evidence such as slave ship logs, plantation rationing logs and manuals on the treatment of slaves. Covey, an author and Vice Chair of the Colorado State Juvenile Parole Board, has teamed with

Eisnach, and independent scholar and editor, to collect oral histories handed down from generation to generation and compiled by a WPA narrative project. The authors discuss African traditions and roots that influenced food consumption and break down the slaves' diet according to food category."


Reference & Research Book News

"…contribute greatly to our knowledge of African-American diet and cuisine, a subject often clouded by myth, misinformation and ignorance. …This book helps us understand the use of food as a control mechanism, through rationing, denial and timing of the supply as well as the effect of these issues on nutrition and health. Researchers tell the story of how the people they enslaved repurposed what was available to create new cuisines, often supplementing meager supplies by farming, fishing and hunting. Many recipes are included, and appendices list more than 300 foods or dishes found as researchers examined all 2,200 narratives recorded by the WPA."


Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

"Highly recommended for high school, community college, college and public libraries."


Catholic Library World

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313374975
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 311
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

HERBERT C. COVEY is the author of African American Slave Medicine: Herbal and Non-Herbal Treatments (2007) as well as of numerous books and articles on juvenile gangs and on drug addiction. He has been Vice Chair of the Colorado State Juvenile Parole Board since 1994 and Field Administrator for the Colorado Department of Human Services since 1999.

DWIGHT EISNACH is an independent scholar and editor. He began his career as an investigative reporter and later served the Colorado Department of Human Services for some 25 years, successively as Legislative Liaison, Public Information Officer, and Administrator of the Colorado Juvenile Parole Board.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)