Hallelujah! The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou

5 Jan
I used to work for a division of Random House, and periodically, the staff would get to choose some of Random House’s offerings, free. We all looked forward to these events with almost-slobbering anticipation – editors are, and must be, book lovers and this was like Christmas come early. One year, Maya Angelou’s collection of recipes and memories, Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, was offered, and I snapped it up.

Maya Angelou has reach deity status with me. I read her autobiographical series when I was in high school, and though I was not a poor Black woman from the South, her voice resonated with me. (Embarrassing aside: I even used a quote from her as my senior yearbook quote. I shudder to think how naively serious I must have looked.) She has had the most varied, bizarre, and interesting life I can imagine, and she has achieved it all on her own, through sheer pluck. I knew from her autobiographies that she had served as a fry cook, and that her mother, grandmother, and brother were all excellent cooks and that food had played a consistent drumbeat through her life. This cookbook, peppered with her own memories, appealed to the lover of foodie literature in me.

Each recipe is accompanied by a short story, a remembrance of the importance of that dish in her life. Her brother’s smothered pork chops remind her of when she was alone and struggling in an apartment in San Francisco. Her grandmother’s fried chicken recalled an incident with the hated Presiding Elder of her church (admirably nicknamed Piss Ant by her brother). Her cassoulet was the dish of the evening when she cooked dinner for M.F.K. Fisher. The stories are short and punchy, and told in her slow and melodic voice (maybe her words read like a melody to me because I know that her speaking voice is low and smooth, or because the rhythm of her words is so soothing.)

After spending an afternoon slowly paging through the book, gazing longingly at the photos of lemon meringue pie and fried sausage and smiling over her hijinks, I feel rested and eager to try something new. Maya Angelou always has this effect on me – she makes me realize anything is possible. Maybe I can even try to make her recipe for eclairs.

3 Responses to “Hallelujah! The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou”

  1. Vasilly January 6, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Wow. This book sounds lovely! Now I want to read it. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. 🙂

    • Amanda January 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      You’re welcome, Vasilly! It really is such a warm and calming read. But I’d read a grocery list if Maya Angelou wrote it. 🙂

      • Mary Jo January 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

        If you ever try the eclairs, call me.

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