A woman named Abby Fisher, Abby Fisher, a former slave from South Carolina, is the author of the first published African American cookbook. “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking” was originally published in 1881.
Freed after the Civil War, she and her family moved to San Francisco where she entered her food in cooking competitions. Her recipes, especially pickles, jellies and preserves, were a success with friends and the upper class. She was known around town as “Mrs. Abby Fisher, Pickle Manufacturer.”
In 1879, she won awards for her recipes like Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickle, Jumble Cake, Green Turtle Soup and Hoe cake. It’s also believed that Fisher was the first to present the recipe for fried chicken and waffles.
Unable to read or write, she was encouraged to record her recipes to share. In 1881, Abby Fisher published, “What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking: Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc.,” with the Women’s Cooperative Printing Office in San Francisco. The cookbook was known for its unusual spelling of dishes and ingredients that we know today, most likely because of her explanation of the recipes that a second party recorded. For example, the milanaise sauce used in her recipe for chicken salad is mayonnaise.
If you’re as curious as I am to learn about Abby Fisher’s recipes, you can get yourself a copy of “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking” here.