In 2017, a forgotten Southern cookbook finally got its due. Matt Lee and Ted Lee, authors of The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, released an updated version of Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook, a collection of almost one hundred and fifty recipes originally published by Pamela Strobel in 1969.
Strobel’s food made her a fixture of the 1960s and ’70s East Village scene in New York City. First at Princess Pamela’s Little Kitchen, then at Southern Touch, Strobel, an eccentric Spartanburg, South Carolina, native, cooked sublime fried chicken and crooned jazz standards for the likes of Diana Ross and Andy Warhol. But in 1998, she closed her restaurant and vanished, her book by then a relic at second-hand stores.
“This is a trove of vintage soul food recipes—from hog jowl and turnip greens to pig tails and butterbeans,” Matt says. “All the classics are in there, and really well rendered. We wanted to put them in hardcover and share them with a wider audience.” Complete with annotated recipes and a new introduction that helps reestablish Strobel’s influence, Princess Pamela is the first in the Lees’ series of reprints of bygone cookbooks.
What happened to Strobel? Although the brothers hired a private investigator and a genealogist, they haven’t been able to find out. They are donating any proceeds from the book’s sales to the Jazz Foundation of America, which aids musicians in need. “My hope is that someone from the jazz community, of which she was a part, will remember something,” Matt says. “She was born around 1928, so… Do we think she’s alive? Probably not. But we wouldn’t bet against her.”