Dr. Maya Angelou passed away this morning at the age of 86. She was probably one of the most iconic literary voices of the 20th century, from her coming-of-age memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, to over a dozen books of poetry, as well as being only the second poet chosen by a US president to write a poem specifically for his presidential inauguration (President Clinton in 1993). Dr. Angelou was also a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X.
What many people do not know is that Dr. Angelou was also a talented home cook and cookbook writer, and valued bringing people together at the dinner table just as much as her writing.
“At one time, I described myself as a cook, a driver, and a writer,” Dr. Angelou wrote in her cookbook “Great Food All Day Long.” “I no longer drive, but I do still write and I do still cook. And having reached the delicious age of eighty-one, I realize that I have been feeding other people and eating for a long time. I have been cooking nearly all my life, so I have developed some philosophies.”
Dr. Angelou struggled for much of her life with her weight, and in her memoir cookbooks she spoke about her own dramatic weight loss, from learning portion control while still indulging in Southern soul food.
In an NPR article in 2010, she said that “the best cooking ignores the rules.” From her boundary-breaking writing, to her role as the first black female streetcar conductor, Dr. Angelou’s approach to cooking certainly seeped into all aspects of her life.
Celebrate the life of Dr. Angelou by reading one of her poems, or by trying out her recipe for good old-fashioned potato salad.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi