Meals make memories — The flavors tell the story — Let’s dine together.
March is Women’s History Month, a time where the contributions of women are recognized. This year, my family celebrated the month by paying homage to some of the best chefs: Edna Lewis, Leah Chase, Tonya Holland, and women in our family.
My husband, thirteen-year-old son, nine-year-old daughter, and I have not eaten in a restaurant since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but we’ve found a better alternative, themed family dinners. Each month, we plan and prepare a special dinner party, eat, and enjoy our time together. Our theme for this Women’s History Month was Top Chefs.
For this dinner, we prepared Edna Lewis’s sweet potato casserole, Leah Chase’s red beans and rice, Tonya Holland’s fried chicken, my grandmother’s tea cakes, and my mother’s sweet tea. (The kids requested my collard greens, so I added them too.) Lewis, Chase, Holland, my grandmother, and my mother’s food tell stories of love, culture, and togetherness. It was an honor to cook their recipes, but it was an even greater honor to share their stories around the dinner table.
Born in Orange County, Virginia, Lewis was one of the first Black women from the south to write a cookbook that did not hide her name, gender, or race. She also embraced her southern cooking culture and encouraged others to do the same.
Chase was the owner and chef of the New Orleans landmark, Dooky Chase Restaurant. She introduced countless diners to classic southern Creole cuisine. My family visited her restaurant in 2015, and I often make her red beans and rice recipe.
Holland is the owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA. She builds on the legacies of Lewis and Chase with her modern take on classic comfort food.
These chefs were vulnerable and brave enough to share their food with others. Thanks to their recipes, my family bonded and learned a bit more about their stories and legacies.