"Edna Lewis: Photographs by John T. Hill" On Exhibit at Crook's Corner April 7 to May 7

Ann Stewart Fine Art is pleased to present

Edna Lewis: Photographs by John T. Hill

Crook’s Corner
610 W. Franklin St.
Chapel Hill, NC

On view April 7–May 7

Please note: An excellent new book on Edna Lewis has just been released by UNC Press: Edna Lewis:  At the Table with an American Original, edited by Sara B. Franklin. The book includes a photographic essay by John T. Hill, as well as the photograph on the jacket cover.

Edna Lewis in the pear orchard, Freetown community, 1971

Edna Lewis in the pear orchard, Freetown community, 1971

Edna Lewis went from a rural crossroads community called Freetown, Virginia—founded by previously enslaved people, including her grandfather—through Washington, D.C. to New York, and eventually returning to the South. In New York, in 1949, she became a partner and chef at Café Nicholson. There, prominent figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams came to enjoy Southern hospitality and meals with a French influence.

The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis, with help and encouragement from famed editor Judith Jones, was published in 1976. It has been adopted and absorbed by a host of America’s most influential chefs and food writers.

Edna Lewis, on learning to cook: 

No one taught me to cook. I just saw it—at Aunt Jenny’s up the path, and in my mother’s kitchen. Mama Daisy, I called her. In summer she made perfect sweet potato pies in an old wood stove in our outdoor kitchen. In winter she made ash cakes—fresh ground cornmeal baked in the ashes—on an open hearth. Cooking was simply a part of my life. Spring breakfasts when the shad were running. Emancipation Day dinners in the fall. The chicken-and-dumpling stews after ice cutting in January.

Once when William Faulkner came to dinner, he stopped upon leaving to chat for a moment. He wanted to know if I had studied in Paris. I was flattered of course, but more flattered that I hadn’t.

Clementine Paddleford: in her review of Café Nicholson and Edna Lewis’s desserts. 
New York Herald Tribune, March 24, 1951

But hardly anyone can resist that pancake or chocolate souffle, light as a dandelion seed in a high wind.

John T. Hill Photographs of Edna Lewis

Miss Lewis, as she was often called, was a striking figure, interested in art, fashion, and politics—in addition to foodways and culinary worlds—all of which is captured in the photographs of John T. Hill.  As Hill notes: 

Edna Lewis and I met in early 1971 when I had been asked to make a portrait for the cover of her first cookbook, The Edna Lewis Cookbook. In spite of a natural shyness, Edna’s body language and soft voice projected a confidence and composure that could not be denied. As foretold by her middle name, Regina, she possessed a truly royal presence. It was my good fortune, and my family’s, to know her as a friend. For over ten years I attempted to capture on film something of her warmth and wit. It is a pleasure to see that she continues to receive appreciation as a chef and as an inspiration.

This exhibition will include photographs of Edna Lewis that have never been published or publicly exhibited. A select number of images from the show will be available for purchase through Ann Stewart Fine Art.