Good Things to Eat is the earliest cookbook written by an African American railroad chef. Its author, Rufus Estes, was born into slavery in Tennessee in 1857, but beginning at age sixteen, he worked for restaurants in Nashville and Chicago. In 1883 he became a chef on the "Pullman" service, as the railroad sleeping cars were known.
The Pullman was a premium service, but even so, the tiny amount of kitchen space in a railroad car meant that chefs needed ingenuity and reliable recipes to satisfy their guests. In his Foreword, Estes wrote: "The recipes given in the following pages represent the labor of years. Their worth has been demonstrated, not experimentally, but by actual tests, day by day and month by month, under dissimilar, and, in many instances, not too favorable conditions."