When I was asked to google the name Edna Lewis, I had no idea what was going to pop up. The first thing I noticed was a picture of a beautiful black woman with strong facial features that demanded me to do more research.
Lewis pioneered southern cooking; sure as African Americans we know all about southern cooking, but she’s credited for exposing the world to the cuisine.
Edna is the epitome of black history. Not only was she the direct descendent of freed slaves, but her grandfather was a founding member of Freetown, Virginia; the town she was born in.
Her passion for cooking came from living on a farm where she loved being able to pick and maintain her own food. Shortly after her father passed away Edna moved to New York where she became a seamstress, making clothes for Doe Avedon and Marilyn Monroe. Surrounded by bohemians and fashion figures, Edna loved throwing dinner parties for her friends and in 1948 where she met one of her regulars Johnny Nicholson. Edna mentioned how Johnny would claim to one day open a restaurant with her as the cook; one year later Café Nicholson opened its doors to the public.
One of the cool things about Café Nicholson is that there was no menu, Edna cooked the same dishes everyday: herbed roast chicken, filet mignon, a piece of fish, caramel cake and a chocolate soufflé. She would remain a cook there for over 20 Years then settled with her husband Steven on a small farm in New Jersey.
Family and friends said Edna truly enjoyed living on her own farm. Once again being able to grow and prepare her own food; she also went on to form her own recipes, teach cooking courses and even wrote several books well into her later years.
Edna passed away on February 13th, 2006. Family, friends and those inspired by the pioneer celebrate her life to this day with food; keeping her legacy in tact with some good ole southern cooking.
"As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn't think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past” - Edna Lewis
WRITTEN BY LATAVIA NICOLE
cookbooks by edna lewis