Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine

Pre-Order   Ships Jan 09, 2024
1 other format in stock!

Product Details

University Press of Kentucky
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.5 X 0.51 inches | 0.0 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Historical archaeologist and historian Kelley Fanto Deetz is a research associate at the James River Institute for Archaeology, and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Randolph College, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Deetz, who was a professional chef for several years, is a contributor to The Routledge History of Food and Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement. Her work has appeared in National Geographic History.


"Kelley Fanto Deetz understands the pleasures and pains of cooking well for large numbers, and she knows that creativity within slave labor camps is especially remarkable. As an archaeologist, she is just the person to revisit Virginia's Big House hearths. Bound to the Fire brings life and dignity to the talented black artisans -- many of them gifted chefs -- who presided in these steamy kitchens. Despite their skills, such lifetime prisoners received few compliments from their diners, no wages from their owners, and only patronizing nods from generations of white writers and historians. Deetz uses letters and wills, utensils and cooking pots, even recipes and menus, in composing a suggestive salute to all those once obliged to put delicious food on the tables of the Tidewater elite." -- Peter H. Wood, coauthor of Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States

"Deetz recasts the image of the plantation cook as a figure of power, dignity, and, frequently, resistance. This is a lively and insightful account of a still-largely-unfamiliar aspect of the history of American slavery." -- Publishers Weekly

"Deetz ensures her readers understand the significant intellect, physical strength, endurance, and capabilities required for enslaved cooks to produce four meals per day from scratch in hot, open-hearth kitchens while under the constant threat of psychological abuse and violence. Scholarly yet readable, Deetz's book honors these American ancestors by reclaiming their rightful places and stories." -- Booklist

"Be aware that this is not a cookbook. Instead, this is a book of history and a chance to set it straight. Yes, there are old-timey half-recipes in here but really, Bound to the Fire is meant for opening eyes, rather than mouths." -- Courier-Tribune

"A fascinating look at day-to-day work of Virginia cooks, the powers they wielded, and how they influenced what [you] eat. Americans must look beyond stereotypes and be mindful of those who literally nourished a nation.

Be aware that this is not a cookbook. Instead, this is a book of history and a chance to set it straight. Yes, there are old-timey half-recipes in here but really, Bound to the Fire is meant for opening eyes, rather than mouths." -- Gazette-Journal

"Deetz takes on the challenging task of examining the history of enslaved cooks through an archaeology of kitchens and outbuildings and by tracing outlines of individual lives from scant historical records. The result is a fascinating account, illustrative of the invisibility of individuals whose work was central to the public performance of plantation culture." -- Choice

"[Deetz] does us a great service of expanding the literature connecting African and African American foodways with those with which we are familiar." -- H-Net Reviews

" Bound to the Fire is a stew of many parts: biography, autobiography, recipes, cultural history, architectural-plan analysis, a review of archeological evidence, fragments of the imagined inner life of a cook, and more, all suspended in the salty broth of Deetz's outrage over culinary erasure, epicurean appropriation, and kitchen deceptions. With this dish, Deetz renders visible the lives of a specific group ofdomestic servants: black cooks enslaved on Virginia plantations tasked solely with preparing meals for the planter's table." -- Public Books

" Bound to the Fire addresses everything from recipes to the garbage behind the slave kitchen, from 'cook wanted' advertisements to family letters, from legal documents to slave narratives. Deetz creates a multifaceted picture of slave life and reminds us of the importance of such details as the size of the hearth, the weight of the pans the cook had to hoist, the number of people it took to get a big meal on the table, and how cooks learned the arithmetic necessary for kitchen work.... Bound to the Fire is... an invitation to reconsider a critical and often misunderstood figure in the slaveholding world..." -- Legacy 36.2