When Crystal Wilkinson wants to summon her kitchen ghosts, she retrieves a fuchsia-hued dress from her closet and hangs it in the doorway. The sturdy, double-hemmed garment invites her grandmother Christine, who sewed it by hand and wore it often before she died in 1994, to join her.
The dress acts as “a literal and metaphorical tethering to her and this matriarchal lineage,” Ms. Wilkinson said in a phone interview from her kitchen.
A poet and professor at the University of Kentucky, Ms. Wilkinson, 62, explores such physical and spiritual ties between the past and present in her new book, “Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts.” Combining elements of poetry, prose and fiction, the book tells stories from her upbringing in Indian Creek, Ky., alongside recipes from five generations of her family, from her enslaved ancestors to the present day.
“The kitchen was where the secrets were revealed, plans were made, advice was given, all while preparing mouthwatering meals,” she writes, describing her grandmother’s kitchen.