Lake Isle Press

The New Harlem Renaissance


A lone note on a saxophone, kids playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, poetry by Langston Hughes, and, of course, fried chicken and waffles.  Harlem has been a cultural hallmark for decades, though one often left un-explored. 

No longer.  With rent sky-high in lower Manhattan, people and businesses alike are moving upward looking for cheaper living. 

Gentrification is inevitable, though not always without a silver lining.  In this case it comes in the form of restaurants.  Most of us have heard of Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, which has abruptly and (in)famously hoisted Harlem cooking onto a culinary pedestal.  As foodies began to flock to his down-home mecca for Fried Yard-Bird and Cornbread, the Harlem Renaissance had a new… well…renaissance.  Only this time with food.

We at Lake Isle Press have a running joke that we are always ahead of the trends. In Harlem Really Cooks—the Nouvelle Soul Food of Harlem, author Sandra Lawrence opens the door to genuine Harlem cuisine—five years before it became trendy.  Her lip-smacking recipes ring true to the diverse streets of Harlem.  She combines Caribben, African, and Spanish flavors with Southern comfort classics to embody the diversity and spice of Harlem life.

From “I Got the Blues Comfort Pot” to “Lima Bean Seduction,” each menu tells the story of the people who inspired and enjoyed it.  This cookbook drips with tradition, love, and, most importantly, soul. It's a true classic--filled with bold flavors, beautiful pictures and genuine love.

And, in a match as perfect as Fried Chicken and Gravy, well-known Harlem artist Benny Andrews lends his colorful paintings to illustrate Lawrence’s equally colorful recipes. Why not put on some jazz, open a bottle of wine and re-create this Chicken Dzifa and Southern Spiced Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce in the kitchen tonight?


by Catherine Lamb, intern, student, food-obsessor.  Check out her blog at

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