Book Talk: “The General’s Cook,” by Ramin Ganeshram

We are pleased to welcome Ramin Ganeshram, author of The General’s Cook, on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 pm. This book talk is Part 1 of a three-part series entitled, “Historical Foodways: Seed, Hearth & Taste,” which will feature food writers, historians, and seed savers. The event will take place in the Program Room, Radcliffe Children’s Library. The discussion will be facilitated by Ali Ghiorse, co-founder of The Foodshed Forum.

The story of Hercules, the enslaved chef to George Washington is well-known, especially to those who watched “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” on Netflix. Hercules set a standard of excellence for the President that was considered important for a new nation and his legacy can be seen in diplomatic dinners even today.

Brilliant, perceptive, ambitious, and passionate, Hercules occupied a fascinating social niche in 18th-century Philadelphia. An African-American slave owned by Washington but granted rare privileges due to his master’s esteem for him, he commands a small army in the kitchen and benefits from lucrative side deals with his food suppliers. The City of Brotherly Love is both a haven and a hell for him, however, surrounded as he is by free people of color, including his lover, a refugee from Sainte-Domingue who is passing as white. When his master moves into his final years, Hercules struggles to secure a future for himself.

Fans of culinary art will adore the detailed descriptions of cookery, all based on historical documents, and there is plenty of drama in Hercules’ attempts to resist his fate by learning to read and making contact with the Philadelphia Abolitionist Society. As the net tightens over Hercules and the fellow slaves he tries to protect, readers will not be able to put down this entertaining adventure.

Ramin Ganeshram is a veteran journalist, who has written features for the New York Times and for New York Newsday. She is a celebrated food columnist who has been awarded seven Society of Professional Journalist awards for her work and an IACP Cookbook of The Year Award. A professionally trained chef, Ganeshram is the author of several cookbooks. She specializes in writing about multicultural communities as a news reporter and about food from the perspective of history and culture. Born and raised in New York City, she lives in Westport, Conn., where she is currently the executive director of the Westport Museum for History and Culture.

Please register for this free program.

Reserve a copy of The General’s Cook from our catalog or purchase a copy from Athena Books.

Historical Foodways: Seed, Hearth & Taste is co-curated by Kathy McCormack, Perrot Memorial Library board president, and Ali Ghiorse, co-founder of The Foodshed Forum. 

For more information, please contact Judy Sgammato at 203-637-1066 x15 or at

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