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Food & Drink: Why baking is about soul searching and power as well as eating

Jerrelle Guy.
Jerrelle Guy.
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You may not have heard of food writer and stylist Jerrelle Guy yet, but once you see it, you’ll want to jump right into her debut cookbook, Black Girl Baking.

Packed with recipes that are both decadent and vegan-friendly - from banana bread to a fudgy flourless brownie pie – the US-based baker, born in South Florida, grew up watching the Food Network (“It was my Saturday morning cartoon”), studied gastronomy at Boston University, and writes recipes alongside her partner, Eric, on their blog Chocolate For Basil.

Here, the 27-year-old tells us about her love of food, why it’s about far more than flavours on a plate, and a thing or two about ‘honey buns’...

Why did you want to write Black Girl Baking?

“Because it was my reality, and I wanted to share what I’d learned about myself, food, African American food-ways and my spirituality. It just felt right and honest, and a creative way to tell my story. I also hadn’t heard a lot of people talking about baking or blackness the way I was experiencing it.”

What do you want people to take from the book?

“I’d like for them to be adventurous in the kitchen, make mistakes with self-compassion, explore, get lost and find themselves, and be inspired to do their own soul-searching through cooking and experimentation, without getting caught up in perfection. For me, baking should be more about the process and about enjoying the solo journey in the kitchen; everyone’s response to your masterpiece can be the icing, but the real work happens in solitude - you gotta do the dirty work on your own.”

What have you discovered about yourself through your own cooking-related soul-searching?

“That I hate rules. That I have brought a lot of my history and pieces of my grandma and mom and dad with me into things I do subconsciously; that I get bored quickly making the same things over and over again. That I bring a lot of the methods I learned in art school into almost everything I do, especially baking. That if I am resourceful, everything I need is right here with me in my memories, creativity, rhythm and body.”

How would you describe your style in the kitchen?

“Pretty loose, partly chaotic, but also methodical, messy, creative, imperfect - and I use my bare hands as often as possible.”

What makes the process of baking powerful for you?

“It puts me in touch with the rawest part of myself. Baking also makes me feel rich and fancy because, since I was a little girl, I associated fresh baked things with abundance.”