December 09, 1996 12:00 PM

by Carolyn Quick Tillery

To young Virginia slave-turned-teacher Booker T. Washington, the plantation ladies’ ginger cakes were “the most tempting and desirable things I had ever seen.” The molasses-sweetened dessert is among these recipes that evoke the spirit of Tuskegee, Ala.—home of the famed center for African-American education that Washington founded in 1881. His reminiscences—and recipes for biscuits, corn-bread dumplings and five versions of fried chicken—are testimony to the way the town nourished both mind and body. (Birch Lane, $18.95)

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