American cuisine

“High on the Hog” gives credit to American cuisine where it belongs

Dr Jessica B. Harris and Stephen Satterfield from Netflix’s “High on the Hog”. | Photo courtesy of Netflix, design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Dr Jessica B. Harris and Stephen Satterfield from Netflix’s “High on the Hog”. | Photo courtesy of Netflix, design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

In the shadow of the Zoungbodji Memorial, a mass grave for the many Africans who have not reached the slave ships that once floated off Ouidah, Benin, Dr Jessica B. Harris comforts host Stephen Satterfield. Behind the scenes, the multinational Black crew are also overwhelmed by the gravity of where they stand, possibly also barefoot out of respect.

Whether it was the four-day march to town, illness caused by the overcrowded barracons they were held in, or a provocative refusal of the “food” known as bread sauce, many slaves died in this West African port city. The latest monument to the city’s dark past, ‘The Door of No Return’, stands on a picturesque beach, a perfect juxtaposition of beauty and a painful reminder for Netflix High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, which will start on May 26.

“The deep history of Africa in America and of African Americans – of my history, of our history – is rooted in this journey from West Africa to this hemisphere,” said Harris, the author of renowned cookbooks and culinary historian behind the book in this series. based on. “But I also think the story becomes not just a story of pain and suffering, but a story of survival.”

Stephen satterfield
Satterfield at the Door of No Return. | Courtesy of Netflix

Those who managed to board ships, despite the horrors they and their descendants would face, survived. They found foods analogous to what they knew, such as sweet potatoes, and applied their knowledge by cooking all the animals to transform “cuts”, allowing culinary traditions to persevere while creating new foods. base like macaroni and cheese.

“The series itself is really a lot more about where we are at today and that in itself is a massive celebration,” said Satterfield, reporter, sommelier and founder of Whetstone magazine. “The word resilience is often used in the context of the African American people, things that we’ve overcome, and I think a lot of that celebration is on screen.” Speaking to potential black viewers, he said, “Don’t be put off by a few tears. It’s a little touching, but it’s a journey.

Even in the first episode on Benin, there is more to wonder than to cry. From the nation’s exciting culinary future to a traditional feast with Yoruba artist Romuald Hazoumé of whom Satterfield was particularly excited, you might find yourself reaching the screen for a bite to eat.

Romuald Hazoumé in High on the Hog
Romuald Hazoumé presents a historic series for Satterfield, Dr Harris and food blogger Karelle Vignon-Vullierme. | Courtesy of Netflix

“It’s hard to explain, but it was just an inspiring meal because you see the vastness, the ingenuity, the technology of Africans, and you can’t help but wonder how different our diets would be. if we hadn’t had that colonial touch, ”Satterfield says.

As Harris says on the show, the covered kitchen is part of a common table. Fried fish feels right at home, whether in a lakeside village in Benin or at a church meal in the South. While North and South Carolinians can go head-to-head over barbecue sauces, you’ll find platters creating outdoor grills capable of cooking whole animals in both states.

A Gullah Diva makes magic with pig’s feet as black Texas cowboys cook hearty stews with intestines. In Brooklyn, Mothershucker Ben Harney is reintroducing oysters to blacks who are unaware that nearly 200 years ago, New York’s Oyster King was a black. Harney puts her finger on her head, remarking “there is nothing we don’t do”.

hickory smoked cornbread
Hickory-smoked beetroot cornbread by cultural curator Gabrielle Eitienne. | Courtesy of Netflix

The guideline is the idea that an African American person invented or influenced a huge sample of American cuisine, although they rarely get credit for it. Harris, affectionately known as Dr. J, is no stranger to exclusion.

She recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation after being almost completely ignored by the organization throughout her career. In 2019, when she was inducted into the foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame, she began his speech with “I was in food before food was cool. I was definitely into food before food was diverse.

A large number of High on the porkGuests stand on his shoulders, receiving their flowers in real time, especially as organizations like the James Beard Foundation scramble to become more inclusive. In the Carolinas, northeastern cities and Texas, we meet a handful of recent James Beard Award finalists and winners, including food historians Michael Twitty and Adrian Miller as well as cookbook author Jerelle Guy.

Each expert and descendant readily interacts with each other, even when they first meet – an immediate connection that is most strongly observed between Satterfield and Harris. The two-way street of admiration and respect makes you wish the couple were co-hosts, but Satterfield also manages to lead the show with care and determination.

Jessica Harris and Stephen Satterfield.
Harris and Satterfield at the Dantokpa market in Cotonou, Benin. | Courtesy of Netflix

“A lot of my personal work is really about deepening these cultural connections through food and helping people understand history through food,” Satterfield said. “This particular way of thinking and this particular questioning, to which Dr. J’s scholarship has contributed enormously, has already led me to this incredible opportunity to be faithful to my own personal mission and to my curiosity.”

High on the pork Also taps into viewers’ curiosity, showing us something new and then pulling the thread so we can see what’s going on. Ultimately, in a media landscape where black entertainment can still swing into the realm of traumatic pornography, this series educates and uplifts. Each episode is punctuated by dark musical performances that sink into your bones and each shocking historical fact is offset and overtaken by tales of ingenuity.

“I hope that, as a friend of mine would say, the shoulders could drop,” Harris says of his hopes for African American viewers in particular. “Maybe we can breathe out a little – not a lot, but a little – and just say yes, we did and now it’s part of a record.”

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J. Fergus is a lifestyle writer known for food, alcohol, cannabis, and tech coverage – the modern diamond of vices. Their words honored the likes of Foodbeast, Home made, The manual, and Chowhound. Their words are also known to dishonor Twitter.