Brothers revive Spartanburg woman’s soul food cookbook, storied culinary quest

Two brothers from Charleston are getting a Spartanburg woman’s soul food cookbook off the back burner and bringing it tables everywhere.

Matt and Ted Lee share a love of writing and collecting cookbooks.

After finding an old, worn copy of “Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook”, the brothers set out on a quest to share the author’s story and recipes.

“There are so many twists and turns, mysteries,” said Matt Lee.

Pamela Strobel was from Spartanburg. Her mother and uncle were professional cooks at a downtown restaurant called The Elite.

“(Strobel), at age 10, was orphaned and left Spartanburg shortly after, around World War II, made the great migration to New York City and never looked back,” said Matt Lee.

Once in New York, Strobel opened one of the city’s first Southern restaurants. It was an exclusive, speakeasy-style restaurant. Celebrities like Diana Ross and Andy Warhol were among her customers.

“She was a jazz musician herself. She was a jazz singer and she would sing after the meal, and that became a real draw,” said Ted Lee.

Strobel put her stories, poems, and soul food recipes into a cookbook in 1969.

“It’s not just soul food from the 1960s, but it’s really a deeper dive. It’s really a portrait of the way people cooked in Upstate South Carolina before World War II,” said Matt Lee. “(The book includes) really interesting ingredient combinations: hog jowl and turnip greens, pig tails and butter beans, possum and sweet potatoes.”

There are 67 baking recipes in the book and 16 different formulations of sweet potatoes.

“It did influence a generation of cooks who are our age,” said Ted Lee.

The brothers worked to edit the book and give it the appearance and structure Strobel’s story deserves.

Mystery is still one ingredient in the story.

Strobel vanished after closing her restaurant in the late ‘90s.

“We hired a private investigator. We hired genealogists. We hired this guy who’s a top researcher at the New York…

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