Writer, culinary anthropologist. Grosvenor was born to Frank and Clara Smart on April 4, 1938, in Fairfax, Allendale County. When she was ten, her family moved from the South Carolina lowcountry, where Grosvenor spoke Gullah, to Philadelphia. By that time, she had developed an interest in food and cooking. After high school, Grosvenor went to Paris and traveled throughout Europe. She has been married twice and has two daughters.
A woman with varied interests, Grosvenor is best known as a writer and culinary anthropologist. During her travels abroad, she became interested in the African diaspora and how African foods and recipes traveled and changed as a result of it. Her first book, Vibration Cooking; or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, was published in 1970. It is a unique combination of recipes, reminiscences, and stories from family and friends. It shows Grosvenor’s strong devotion to these people as well as her growing interest in Afro-Atlantic foodways and culinary history. This interest has been further developed in Vertamae Cooks in the Americas’ Family Kitchen (1996) and Vertamae Cooks Again (1999), and in her cooking series, Seasonings, for public radio and Americas’ Family Kitchen on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Grosvenor’s other interests have led her in several directions. She has written for such varied publications as Ebony, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Essence, Life, and the Washington Post. In 1972 she published a history of black servitude in the United States and England, Thursdays and Every Other Sunday Off: A Domestic Rap. She has also been an editor for Elan Magazine and served on the Literary Task Force for the South Carolina Arts Commission. She has lectured throughout the Americas, catered celebrity affairs, and been a guest on many television shows. She has acted on Broadway and in the movies Daughters of the Dust and Beloved. She is perhaps best known, however, as a regular contributor to National Public Radio (where she has been a commentator on All Things Considered ) and PBS.
Throughout her career, Grosvenor has continued her loving explorations of lowcountry culture. She was a writer in residence for the Penn Center on St. Helena Island and worked on the National Geographic Explorer documentary, “Gullah.” She won an Emmy for “Growing Up Gullah,” a story for the Washington, D.C., program, Capitol Edition. She has combined her love of theater and cooking in the folk opera, Nyam, which is Gullah for “eat.”
Grosvenor, Vertamae. Vibration Cooking; or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.