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2021 National Book Festival Highlights: Cooking and Community

Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the 2021 Library of Congress National Book Festival! Here, we offer highlights from this year’s treasure trove of programs celebrating the theme, “Open a Book, Open the World.” Whether you’re tuning in for the first time, or revisiting favorites, we hope you enjoy these programs — and that they continue to open the world for you. Make sure to explore the full video collection from the 2021 Festival.

This week, as families and communities around the country gather together to give thanks and share a meal, we’re highlighting programs from the 2021 National Book Festival that honor the ways in which food is often inextricably linked with love, community, storytelling and cultural memory.

Rodney Scott (“Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day”) and Trisha Yearwood (“Trisha’s Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends and Family”) discuss their new cookbooks with Jummy Olabanji, co-anchor of NBC4’s “News4 Today” morning news show.

“It’s not just about the food and the recipes and the ingredients,” Yearwood says. “It’s about the whyWhy is this important and why is this special? And it connects us all. You know, we need things that bring us together and show what we have in common, and food is one of those things that we all share, we all have in common.” Cooking is about love, she says. “It brings me joy, the process of cooking the meal and sharing it with people. … If you really love that, and you love the people you’re cooking for, I think it makes the food taste better. I just do.”

Scott agrees that food “is one of the universal languages,” and hopes that his book “can help bring the world together and help people connect and enjoy each other and enjoy making food together — creating memories.”

Hawa Hassan (“In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean”) and Marcus Samuelsson (“The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food”) discuss their new cookbooks with Robin Givhan, senior critic-at-large at The Washington Post.

In his introduction to “The Rise,” Samuelsson writes, “This is a cookbook about race, class and the equity of the American food landscape.” During his Festival appearance with Hassan, he says that “you can’t talk about American cooking without really bringing in an African American narrative,” and that “this specific moment is one of the best times ever for Black cooking and Black hospitality, because there’s so many multiple different ways of entering the game and telling stories.” Samuelsson doesn’t think it’s a coincidence why “Black cooking and Black storytelling [are] thriving at this moment. I think it has a lot to do with the pandemic as well. You know, as people went in and started to cook more at home, they were intrigued by different stories and different types of storytelling.”

Hassan talks about the communities that shaped her. “If I’m talking about the story of Hawa Hassan, I think it’s hard to share my story without talking about the people who took care of me,” she says. “In Bibi’s Kitchen” is a “collaboration with women that I grew up with — people whose feet I sat at. And then it’s stories of the [African] continent from their perspectives. For me, you can’t have cooking without talking about the people who’ve done the cooking always, and that’s grandmothers.” She says it’s important for readers to know that “community really played a big part in making this book come together.”

You can watch programs from the 2021 National Book Festival on our National Book Festival website. For up-to-the-minute Festival news, highlights and other important information, subscribe to this blog. The Festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You can support the Festival, too, by making a gift now.

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