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Culinary History in Savannah

Culinary History in Savannah

Harriet Ross Colquitt’s  The Savannah Cookbook  first published in 1933

Harriet Ross Colquitt’s The Savannah Cookbook first published in 1933

Harriet Ross Colquitt wrote The Savannah Cookbook using the oral histories of black domestics in and around low country Savannah, Georgia. These were largely women who were what Vertamae Grosvenor calls, vibration cooks who did not measure ingredient used with traditional instruments such as a ½ teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, ¼ or 1 and ½ cups etc. Instead that depended on years of practice and apprenticeships as young folk under great cooks. Like a great musician, improvisation served as a way of life for these cooks using ingredients in season and abundance and substituting what they had on hand for what they needed. Colquitt writes, getting a recipe and the method used to make a dish from an African American cook in Savannah “is rather like trying to write down the music to the spirituals which they sing—for all good old-timers (and new-timers, too, for that matter) cook “by ear,” and it is hard to bring them down to earth when they begin to improvise.” They are both vague in saying “a little of dis and a little of dat,” and they “are extremely modest about their accomplishments,” she concludes. 

Savannah Red Rice Recipe


1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons vegan butter

1 cup sausage or vegetarian sausage

1 can crushed tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup water

3 vegetable bouillon cubes

Salt and pepper

1 cup uncooked brown or white rice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion, pepper, and sausage until everything is lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, hot sauce, tomato sauce, water and bouillon cubes. Season the mix with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the rice. Pour everything into a greased casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

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