Renaissance House Retreat for Writers in Martha’s Vineyard Presents Noted Cookbook Author Jessica B. Harris on July 30

Renaissance House Salon Series will Feature Jessica B. Harris, Author, Scholar and African Diaspora Food Anthropologist, Discussing “Writing About Cultural Cuisine” in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard. Free to the Public.

Martha's Vineyard, MA, July 30, 2013 --( Renaissance House: A Retreat for Writers and Other Artists in Martha's Vineyard will host a presentation on writing about cultural cuisine by Jessica B. Harris, award-winning author and scholar of foods of the African Diaspora on Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30pm at the Renaissance House, 31 Pennacook Avenue in historic Oak Bluffs.

It’s part of the Renaissance House Salon Series and free to the public. The presentation is sponsored by the Helene Johnson and Dorothy West Foundation For Artists In Need. Dessert is served after each salon.

Jessica B. Harris, PhD, a longtime Martha’s Vineyard resident, is a renowned author, scholar and food anthropologist. A world traveler, she is the author of 11 cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. Her 2011 history of African Americans and food, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, was featured prominently in the New York Times. Her books include: Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquan, Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking; Sky Juice and Flying Fish Traditional Caribbean Cooking; Tasting Brazil: Regional Recipes and Reminiscences; The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking; A Kwanzaa Keepsake; The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent; Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim; On the Side: More than 100 Recipes; The Martha’s Vineyard Table and Rum Drinks: 50 Caribbean Cocktails from Mojito to Rum Daisy. Dr. Harris has served as a consultant for national and international organizations including Kraft Foods, Pillsbury Foods, Unilever, and Almond Resorts in Barbados & St. Lucia. She was inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America. A former Ray Charles Chair in African-American material culture at Dillard University in New Orleans, she continues as a tenured professor of English at Queens College in New York. Dr. Harris holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Queens College, The Université de Nancy, France, and a doctorate in Performance Studies from New York University.

“While you are sleeping off a big meal, Jessica B. Harris will be writing another book documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora, Brazil, Louisiana and Martha's Vineyard. A culinary historian and food anthropologist, Jessica has been a guest lecturer at Renaissance House since its very inception 12 years ago. She has also lectured on African-American foodways at The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Oxford University, and The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, spreading the word about food and its origins,” said Abigail McGrath, the founder of Renaissance House. “At the Tuesday salon at Renaissance House in Oak Bluffs, she is not going to cook. She is going to talk about food, the history of it, the intricacies of it, the glory of it. Dessert will be served along with coffee, tea and hot chocolate... do you know who was the first person to look at a cocoa bean and say... 'I think I’ll make a comforting hot drink out of this?' Jessica does.”

This summer, the Renaissance House Salon Series has featured notable writers connected to Martha’s Vineyard. The writers have included: Susan Klein, Richard Greener, Jill Nelson, Dan Waters, Shana Mahaffey, Michael West, Cynthia Riggs and Holly Nadler.

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 7:30 PM, the speakers will be Len and Georgia Morris, documentary filmmakers

The Renaissance House: Retreat for Writers & Other Artists was named in honor of Helene Johnson and Dorothy West, two cousins who were writers during the Harlem Renaissance. It was founded by Johnson’s daughter, McGrath, an author, playwright and filmmaker. Renaissance House provides writers and other artists with a subsidized retreat away from life's responsibilities and the space in which to create new works of art. It is one of the few retreats designed for issue-oriented writers, writers of color and writers of social justice. Applications are available for September and October retreats.

The Renaissance House Salon Series takes place on Tuesday nights through August 6. These programs are free and open to the public. All salons are followed by dessert and coffee and will be filmed by Martha’s Vineyard TV.

Please RSVP for a reservation. For more information call Renaissance House at 917-747-0367 or Please check out the website on
Renaissance House
Abigail McGrath