Federation Cook Book
Compiled by Bertha L Turner, with recipes from "colored women of the state of California"
This book of recipes by California African American women was compiled by Bertha L. Turner, a well-known Pasadena caterer, who also served as a State Superintendent of Domestic Science. Several books in this archive connect back to Turner, including a recipe from her that appears in the Pasadena Shakespeare Club’s cookbook (1935), where Turner was a caterer, and an advertisement of Turner’s catering business in The Superior Cookbook (1927). Turner also ran the tea room at The Hollywood Bowl for several years. She was so well known that, upon her death, obituaries appeared in several LA newspapers (pictured), as well as The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the leading black newspapers in the US at the time.
Though these other cookbooks connect to Turner’s catering work, in The Federation Cook Book she was able to celebrate and share how she and other black women cooked at home.
In her seminal work on African American Cookbooks, The Jemima Code, Toni Tipton-Martin writes about The Federation Cook Book:
“This recipe collection signals a shift from one intended to educate white housewives to one that preserved the culinary values inherited and practiced by the black middle class. A dedication confidently promised to deliver ‘tested cooking, of tried proportions… Kindly given by our women.” It is followed by a cheerful poem, composed by a member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
The dedication suggests that readers purchase the book to express appreciation for those ‘helpful, trusty’ women who cooked in America’s kitchens with confidence and skill. After this come about two hundred recipes for simple yet elegant cookery … ‘Take it to your friends and neighbors,’ Turner urged. ‘May it be a blessing to you.’”
This edition is a reprint - one of three books I have reprinted specially for the Community Cookbook Archive, based on scans of the originals. These reprints are books I felt were particularly important additions to the collection and its ever-growing narrative of Los Angeles. The other two Community Cookbook Archive reprints are The Unrivalled Cook Book and Comidas Mexicanas.
The fact that Bertha Turner appears in three cookbook in this collection speaks to some of the magic that happens, at least in my opinon, when we get to examine these cookbooks as a collective. While each book is interesting in its own right, when brought together they begin to speak to and inform each other.