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Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina, to Harlem    by Sylvia Woods order for
Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook
by Sylvia Woods
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 1999 (1999)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Anyone, to whom I have mentioned Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook, has either been to her family's restaurant in Harlem or has eaten some of their line of food items. It stands to reason I had to indulge my curiosity. It's impossible to separate family from the restaurant. Each of Sylvia and Herbert's four children is actively involved in the business. The cookbook is interspersed with wonderful family photographs as well as beautiful color shots of some of the dishes served in Sylvia's Restaurant.

The story of the family, written by Sylvia, is a page out of American enterprise. She makes her journey - from childhood in a small house in Hemingway, South Carolina to the mega-business in Harlem - seem like an easy trip, one she was almost destined to make. Maybe destiny had a part in her success, but her hard work and that of her family proves we all have a chance to make good, if we too are willing to work hard. But it wasn't curiosity that made me peruse the recipes. It was pure love of food. And what food!

What to do with those extra zucchini out of your garden? Make pots of Creamy Zucchini Soup, Sylvia's own creation. The simple but addictive 'You Can't Eat Just One' Snackin' Crackers come courtesy of sister-in-law Frances Donnelly. Most of the dishes are treasured family recipes, like Dolly's Barbecued Venison or Kenneth's Honey Lemon Tilefish. I must try Herbert's 'Hot As You Like It' Fried Corn. The dessert section makes my mouth water - Creamy Pear Pie, Sweet and Lovely Pecan Pie, Vanessa's Apple Pie. Any of these desserts would knock my diet askew but be worth every forkful.

If your soul needs some stroking, head for Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem. Can't get there? Then get the next best thing, Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook.

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