Food & Drink

FOOD: Edna Lewis – A Classic Cookbook and Chef Review You Don’t Want to Miss

by Couch Sessions

Edna Lewis Pursuit of FlavorFor many of us that grew up with any kind of Southern roots, I’m sure you remember your grandmothers and aunts making wonderful down-home dishes that you just don’t find in very many kitchens today. I know for myself it was because when I asked for the recipe they could never give it to me. I would get responses from my grandmother like “Everyone knows how to fix this” or “Just watch me, you’ll learn” or my least favorite “Get out the kitchen, I’m cooking.” In a nutshell, they had been preparing these recipes so long they just knew how to do it. Well I’ve found the recipes, PEOPLE! All this time they’ve been hiding in every Edna Lewis cookbook ever written.

Edna Lewis was born in 1916 in Freetown, Virginia, one of eight children. Central to her family’s life was food in all its phases: growing, foraging, harvesting and cooking. Without any modern cooking conveniences—everything was cooked by fire, and without such modern conveniences as measuring spoons, baking powder was usually measured on coins—food preparation called on creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

When Lewis left Freetown she headed for Washington, D.C., and later landed in New York City where she opened the restaurant, Café Nicholson, in Manhattan’s East Side. As a local legend, she cooked for many celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dali, and Eleanor Roosevelt, just to name a few.

As a specialist in Southern Cooking, she received an honorary Ph.D. in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University (Norfolk), College of Culinary Arts May 26, 1996″; and was also awarded the “James Beard Living Legend Award”  in 1999.

Her book entitled the Pursuit of Flavor, can be considered a classic, however, the recipes are timeless. She educates the reader on using seasonal produce and traditional Southern delicacies, such as shad roe, which is the roe of a female shad fish which can only be found in early spring. In many of her recipes the use of lard, which was popular at the time can be substituted for butter or omitted, if lard isn’t your thing. Throughout the years she was best known for her world famous cheese and chocolate soufflés.

If you’re looking to find the recipes grandma used to make I highly suggest checking out the Pursuit of Flavor or any cookbook by Edna Lewis. Stay tuned, In a couple weeks I’ll be making her amazing cheese soufflé and shad roe! 


  • Mel

    Wow, this article reminds me of sitting in my grandma’s kitchen watching her cook and bake fabulous food, all without measuring cups or any kind of kitchen gadgets. I miss those days! But it sounds like Edna Lewis has published all of our grandmothers’ secrets–can’t wait to check out her cookbook!

  • Taste_tester

    I’m so happy she is being “rediscovered” ..such a treasure.