Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Culinary anthropologist/griot, food writer, Died at 79

  Media, Writer

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor was born on April 4, 1937, and died on September 3, 2016.

She was a culinary anthropologist, griot, food writer, and broadcaster on public media.

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor was known for her cookbook-memoir, Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (1970).

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor also appeared in several films, including Daughters of the Dust (1992), about a Gullah family in 1902 during a time of transition on the Sea Islands, and Beloved (1998), based on Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel of the same name.

Smart-Grosvenor grew up speaking Gullah, as her parents’ families had been in the area for centuries and were part of the culture.

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor grew up on Low Country cuisine and recounted her grandmother Estella Smart’s way with oysters in her first cookbook, published in 1970.

She took an  interested in food and cooking as expressions of culture.

She started in 1958, at the age of 19, arriving in Paris, France, looking to pursue theater in the bohemian circles of Europe.

Smart-Grosvenor also traveled to cities in Italy and other European countries.

During her time in Paris, she recognized that a Senegalese woman selling food on the street was using techniques she knew from home, and she began to write about food and cooking as a way of expressing one’s culture.

She has been a long-time contributor to public broadcasting in the United States. She was a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered and a regular contributor to NPR’s Cultural Desk.

Her early notable programs were her Slave Voices: Things Past Telling (1983), and Daufuskie: Never Enough Too Soon, which earned her a Robert F. Kennedy Award and an Ohio State Award.

She was the author of several books on African-American cooking but was perhaps most famous for Vibration Cooking: or, the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, an autobiographical cook book, and memoir.

Smart-Grosvenor has published under multiple names, including Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Verta Smart, and Vertamae Grosvenor.

Bob Grosvenor was her husband.

Together the couple had a daughter, Kali Grosvenor, in 1960, and later separated.

Kali Grosvenor-Henry is married and a poet, essayist, and author.

Together Grosvenor and Kali published for the first time simultaneously: In 1969, a Doubleday employee received Kali’s poetry manuscript and Smart-Grosvenor’s cookbook notes and decided to publish both pieces.

In 1970,the next year when Kali was nine, Doubleday published both Poems by Kali and Vibration Cooking.

In 1962, Grosvenor had her daughter Chandra Ursule Weinland-Brown, who is married and an actor, visual artist, and poet.

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor passed away at 79 years old.