Southern baking–like most of the region’s historic foodways–is more than just an amalgam of timeless treats: Many of the South’s most cherished baking traditions are vestiges of the lives and livelihoods of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Black women, in particular, originated many of the innovative recipes that the white women they cooked for would publish and profit from. This whitewashing erased generations of Black women’s contributions to Southern culinary culture, a long legacy that chefs and food historians are working to fully uncover to this day.
Back in the Day bakery co-owner and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice cofounder Cheryl Day is here to set the record straight: “We are the creators of this cuisine,” Day tells me, holding my Blackness in tandem with hers for a brief moment. “I want [Black] folks to be really proud of the fact that Southern baking is something that we created.” Day’s pride in her craft and heritage shines brightly through the pages of her newest cookbook, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, out November 9.Cheryl Day Just Wrote the Definitive Book on Southern Baking, Bon Appetit