Local author wins prestigious James Beard award

Adrian Miller, soul food scholar
Soul Food cover Knish cover

Denver native son Adrian E. Miller was recently honored with one of the highest accolades in the world of food writing, the 2014 James Beard Award for Reference and Scholarship, for his delightful book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).

For the several hundred Denverites who had the good fortune to attend the launch party for Soul Food at Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library last fall, Adrian's gifts as a scholar and as a raconteur come as no surprise.

He kept us spellbound and salivating as he recounted the genesis of African-American cooking in Africa and the old South and its exodus to big cities during the Great Migration. Adrian concluded with revelations about the future foods of black folk. The celebration mirrored Adrian's talk, with food and entertainment representative of each soul food era presented on three floors of the library. It was standing room only. 

Adrian combines meticulous research with engaging writing and an ingenious organizational scheme to compose a love letter to African-American home and restaurant cooks. He even includes recipes!

By his own account, Mr. Miller is "a recovering lawyer and politico turned culinary historian...doing what [he] can to celebrate soul food history. Soul food, the traditional food of African Americans, deserves its rightful place as one of America’s greatest cuisines." For more information about Adrian's current and future projects, please visit his web site

I hope Adrian won't mind that I mix metaphors and mention another book about a traditional food of my own people: Laura Silver's Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food. For the uninitiated, a knish is a homey (some would say homely) pastry stuffed with mashed potatoes, buckwheat groats ("kasha") or other humble fillings. Try it. You'll like it! There's a deep spiritual kinship to the dishes that Adrian explores in Soul Food.

Here's a complete list of the James Beard Awards for 2014. Mazel tov, Adrian! I treasure my inscribed copy of Soul Food. Denver's proud of you, and looks forward to your next book.

Comments

It was a great pleasure and honor to meet Adrian one day when I was at the Reference Desk and he came in for a visit!

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