Freda DeKnight was Ebony's first food editor and author of a best-selling African-American cookbook in the 1940s. Her recipes presented a vision of black America that was often invisible in mainstream media. Sierra Nicole Rhoden/Chicago Tribune hide caption

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Sierra Nicole Rhoden/Chicago Tribune

In his belligerently funny novel The Sellout, Paul Beatty eviscerates racial politics in the U.S. by aiming some of his sharpest stabs at that old and vicious shaming device: the food slur. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

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Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Liagnfen Of Happy Tears, an appetizer of cold, spicy starch jelly noodles served at MáLà Project. The New York City eatery is part of a new generation of higher-end Chinese restaurants that are catering not just to American palates but also to a growing number of monied immigrants. Courtesy of MáLà Project hide caption

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Courtesy of MáLà Project

Michael Twitty wants credit given to the enslaved African-Americans who were part of Southern cuisine's creation. Here he is in period costume at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate. Erika Beras for NPR hide caption

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Erika Beras for NPR

This Historian Wants You To Know The Real Story Of Southern Food

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A platter of falafel, kafta, french fries and other fare at Al Ameer Restaurant in Dearborn, Mich. The Mediterranean eatery will be recognized by the James Beard Awards this year in the "American Classics" category. Edsel Little/Flickr hide caption

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Edsel Little/Flickr

Harriet Tubman, pictured between 1860 and 1875. The woman who will soon become the first African-American to grace an American currency note self-funded many of her heroic raids to save slaves by cooking. H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress via AP hide caption

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H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress via AP

Japanese food was once derided, but it's now in the canon of haute cuisine, says author Krishnendu Ray. How we value a culture's cuisine in our society, he says, often reflects the status of those who cook it. Alex Green/Getty Images/Ikon Images hide caption

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Alex Green/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Rick Bayless is a master of Mexican cuisine. He's also a white guy from Oklahoma. Over the years, that has made him the target of criticism. Who gets to be the ambassador of a cuisine? Sergi Alexander/Getty Images hide caption

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Sergi Alexander/Getty Images

Chefs at work in the kitchen of a restaurant in New York's Chinatown, circa 1940. For many Chinese, opening up restaurants became a way to bypass U.S. immigration laws designed to keep them out of the country. Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images hide caption

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Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

Waiter carriers pass food to passengers on a train stopping in Gordonsville, Va., in this undated photo. After the Civil War, local African-American women found a route to financial freedom by selling their famous fried chicken and other home-made goods track-side. Courtesy of the Town of Gordonsville hide caption

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Courtesy of the Town of Gordonsville

A 16th century woodcut shows the interior of a kitchen. In medieval Europe, cooks combined contrasting flavors and spices in much the same way that Indian cooking still does today. Paul Lacroix/Wikimedia hide caption

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Paul Lacroix/Wikimedia