Tanya Holland's California Soul: Recipes From a Culinary Journey West

In her cookbook/memoir/history Tanya Holland organizes recipes in four chapters arranged by the seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter), preceded with a lovely foreward by Alice Walker. In the introduction the successful American chef, restaurateur, podcaster, writer and cookbook author states, “I claim it all,” Black, African American, from the African diaspora, descended from enslaved people “brought to this country by Europeans. Americans have been and still are all on the journey together. And as an African American woman, the contributions that my ancestors made to what Americans eat and how we eat is significant. No matter where we migrated from or ended up, our food comes with us and tells our story. I am contributing and this is my story. I have a California Soul.” Over several pages, she provides a history of her family and their connections to food, to people, to historical events. Even though she has traveled all over the world, her soul "will always be anchored right here at home in California.

This is a large format book with full-page color photographs of completed dishes, of people, and of places.  The artistic layout of the book is beautiful, with alternating pages of colored paper, in unique muted shades of all the colors of the rainbow, as the backdrop for the recipes, narratives and photographs. The recipes are not complicated with Tanya Holland’s fresh take on traditional dishes. Even though she has become a proponent/preacher for more plant-based food, sometimes various types of meat, particularly bacon “makes nearly everything taste better. Smoked and cured meats, especially pork, have been key soul food seasonings for centuries.” Interspersed among the recipes are "detours" to African American cooks, restaurants, farms, entrepreneurs and history. The book has a detailed index and a section with web addresses for “Featured California Black-Owned California Businesses.”  Tanya Holland has created a joyful book with recipes for luscious food that also honors the contributions of African Americans, specifically in California, who have contributed to making food that is unique to the Golden State--rich with soul.

The Los Angeles Public Library owns Tanya Holland's other cookbooks.