Modern Chefs and their celebration of Black American cuisine is nothing short of a miracle. Recipes that stem from generational knowledge and cooking and farming techniques, is not something that everyone can or does take advantage of – for example, how many times have you bought groceries, planned out particular meals, and then ordered a pizza instead of cooking it at home?
Please keep in mind this is nothing against pizza, which should be ordered as much as you like within reason, or other types of cuisine that perhaps you haven’t attempted yet – however the art of preserving food from your garden, keeping it safely until ready for consumption, and then using everything you can to mitigate waste while providing a delicious/nutritional meal is not a new concept, just a forgotten one.
Lucky for us, there are more chefs than ever before trying to really document and preserve the cooking styles of African Americans, and give credit where credit is due.
American Cuisine: ‘Taste the Nation’
If you have read along in this blog previously, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m a huge fan of Top Chef (https://www.bravotv.com/top-chef), and while there are plenty of places online I could look up to find American culinary influencers – as we have explored the past couple of days (check out previous blogs here: https://suntexllc.com/american-cuisine-farm-to-table-part-1-of-many/, https://suntexllc.com/blog-american-cuisine-farm-to-table-part-2-of-many/) – I do have to say that Padma Lakshmi’s new show, ‘Taste the Nation’ (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12244950/), does a better job of highlighting modern-day American Chefs than I ever could.
I highly recommend you check the show out for several reasons, but I will say that in comparison to Top Chef, she does do a better job of “welcoming more people into the kitchen, rather than kicking them out,” as Naomi Tomky says in her article on thekitchn.com, titled, ‘Watch the Gullah Geechee Episode of Padma’s New Show for Free Right Now’ (https://www.thekitchn.com/gullah-geechee-padma-hulu-youtube-23050729). In this episode, episode 4 of ‘Taste the Nation,’ Padma Lakshmi interviews several chefs within the South Carolina, Charleston Sea Islands, region and starts to learn more about the historical roots of cooking in this region.
Among the people she meets and highlights within the show include:
- Michael Twitty, James Beard Award-winning Writer, and Culinary Historian, https://afroculinaria.com/about/
- Keith Smiley and Jerrel Brown, father-son local crabbing-team in the Charlston Sea Isles, https://charlestoncitypaper.com/padma-lakshmi-explores-gullah-geechee-cuisine-in-her-new-show-taste-the-nation-debuting-this-week/
- BJ Dennis, local chef and caterer to St. Helena Island, who also says on the show that, “the garden was always the centerpiece of the Gullah Geechee culture, make sure you have vegetables” (https://charlestonwineandfood.com/participants/bj-dennis/)
- Sarah Reynolds Green, Marshview Community Farm Founder and Expert Gullah Geechee Farmer, (https://marshviewcommunityorganicfarm.com/)
For more information about the Gullah Geechee and cultural cuisine, feel free to check out a few more sources (for example, here: https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/, https://marshviewcommunityorganicfarm.com/).
For example, GullahGeecheeCorridor.org has this to say about the Gullah Geechee, Southern American diet:
“FOODWAYS: The traditional Gullah Geechee diet consisted of items available locally such as vegetables, fruits, game, seafood, livestock; items imported from Europe, items imported from Africa during the slave trade (okra, rice, yams, peas, hot peppers, peanuts, sesame “benne” seeds, sorghum and watermelon), and food introduced by Native Americans such as corn, squash, tomatoes and berries. Rice became a staple crop for both Gullah Geechee people and whites in the southeastern coastal regions.
Making use of available food (or rations), making a little go a long way, supplementing with fish and game, leftovers from butchering and communal stews shared with neighbors were African cultural practices. African cooking methods and seasonings were also applied in Gullah Geechee homes and plantation kitchens. Because plantation cooks were primarily enslaved women, much of the food today referred to as “Southern” comes from the creativity and labor of enslaved cooks.” (link here: https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/).
For more information about Black Cuisine, and/or the origins of the Farm to Table movement, feel free to check out the sources mentioned in the past few days blog posts – added here, again, for reference (in order of appearance in blog posts):
- https://gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/, https://marshviewcommunityorganicfarm.com/
Otherwise, I’m sure we’ll visit this topic again in the near future, hence the title, “American Cuisine: Farm to Table, Part 3 of Many” because you truly cannot truly study the farm-to-table movement in the United States, or around the world for that matter, without paying homage to those that came before today’s modern movement, including Native Americans from North to South America, Canada to Argentina, nor without being grateful to the African American community for the preservation of the farm-to-table technique of food conservation and culture.