The phrase “high on the hog” is actually about hogs. When it involves the standard of pork, the most effective meat is from the again and the higher legs. Literally, the highest of the hog. So for those who reside “high on the hog,” you’ll be able to afford higher high quality meals. Meaning, you have been prosperous sufficient to have the ability to eat properly. Even when Black individuals are past poor, they eat properly. And these meals have carried and sustained us, not solely as a folks however as a rustic, since this nation started. The Netflix present “High on the Hog” does an important job of mixing journey present, historic documentary and meals present with out making it overly difficult or troublesome to observe.
“High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” relies on a e book by Dr. Jessica Harris. Both the present and the e book do the identical factor. They hint how influential African American meals is on American meals, going again to when enslaved folks have been introduced right here in the course of the transatlantic slave commerce. The present’s host, Stephen Satterfield, travels to locations like South Carolina, Philadelphia, Texas and New York to point out how Black folks and our tradition is actually baked into all aspects of American tradition.
In the present’s first episode, Satterfield visits Benin in West Africa. Benin was a serious port within the transatlantic slave commerce, and plenty of enslaved folks introduced their meals and tradition from there to the United States. While in Benin, he meets with Dr. Harris they usually go on a culinary tour of the nation, assembly meals bloggers, cooks, and spending time in an open air market. (It’s throughout their time on the market the place we be taught the true distinction between a candy potato and a yam.) They present how West African meals and American meals are intrinsically tied. Especially by way of issues like peas, rice and beans.
“So part of what has been lost in this story is just a complete marginalization of how important the rice trade was in establishing the wealth of the country, but also how the African American people, the enslaved Africans, who grew that wealth did so not just with our bodies, but principally with our knowledge,” Sattenfield defined in an interview with Variety.
While studying about how enslaved folks introduced their meals and tradition to the Americas was completely fascinating, probably the most profound and impactful a part of the primary episode and their time in Benin is after they go to a memorial to the slave commerce in Ouidah. You can really feel the burden of these souls, the souls of our ancestors, weigh very closely on Satterfield and Dr. Harris. He wears his feelings throughout his face in that second, a mixture of persevering with to hold their weight on his shoulders and the reverence for our folks. You can’t watch that second and never really feel choked up by all of it. Enslaved folks had no concept what was going to occur to them, however they knew the methods to carry their homeland with them — the love they’ve for it continued within the meals they made right here.
Black meals has all the time been about love. “High on the Hog” exhibits that in each approach potential. In the Gullah islands off South Carolina, Satterfield meets with some native cooks who share their secrets and techniques. Gullah meals is so good as a result of it’s made with love. It might seem to be an absurd idea, nevertheless it’s true. Food tastes higher whenever you make it with love.
Growing up, meals was all the time infused with love. For my mother, cooking is genuinely a pleasure, and you may style it. But that love goes past simply the love she pours into her meals. With Black meals, it’s all about legacy. That’s the crux of “High on the Hog” as a present. While in Virgina, Satterfield goes to be taught extra about Thomas Jefferson’s beloved enslaved chef, James Hemmings (sure, brother to Sally Hemmings.) During his time there, we be taught that we’ve James to thank for certainly one of my favourite meals in the entire world, baked macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese is a staple in Black households, and mine was no exception. And my mother’s mac and cheese tastes like love. I bear in mind the delight she had sharing not solely her recipe with me, however the tales of my grandfather making it for her as a child.
Now I pour that very same type of love into my mac and cheese and all of the meals I make, and my companion tells me on a regular basis that my meals tastes higher due to it. So it was further particular to be taught the legacy of my favourite meals. James Hemmings was dropped at France with Jefferson and there discovered the way to be a chef. It was throughout that point he discovered the way to make what was then referred to as macaroni pie. He introduced it again to the States, and now you possibly can’t think about a Black Thanksgiving desk with out it. There are issues James Hemmings did that I’ll now strive with my very own mac and cheese to honor the legacy of those that got here earlier than me. That’s what African American meals is all about.
Like I stated, “High on the Hog” isn’t nearly African American meals, however Black tradition and the way it influences American tradition. During his time in Texas, Satterfield visits with Black males carrying on the legacy of Black cowboys. It’s a bit of identified a part of American historical past, however many of the early cowboys have been Black and Indigenous. The historical past has been whitewashed by Hollywood to make you assume that the one cowboys regarded like John Wayne, however that’s merely not true within the slightest. As we be taught within the present, the phrase cowboy has roots in slavery. During slavery (and past) Black males have been known as “boy.” You had your “house boy,” your “field boy” and your “cow boy.” These males have been those who tended to the cattle and livestock. And they largely formed the cattle ranching business in America, in addition to closely influenced rodeo tradition.
In an interview with The New York Times, Satterfield defined “the cowboys — that was the moment when I realized, we really touched everything. There’s not one part of what we consider to be the culture, custom or identity of the U.S. that was made possible without Black people.”
Satterfield visits a Black rodeo, the place he feasts on an enormous turkey leg and chili, and through a cattle drive has a hearty stew remodeled an open hearth with beans and beef organ meat — meals closely related to rancher tradition. These meals inform the story of our historical past. Not simply Black historical past, however American historical past.
“High on the Hog” additionally exhibits what number of Black cooks there are persevering with the legacy of the meals our ancestors created and handed down. So a lot of what we see within the media is about white Euro-centric delicacies. When we take into consideration famed cooks, they’re virtually all white, proper? But these Black cooks are out right here creating delicacies on the identical degree. They’re exhibiting how these meals we affiliate with blackness, this “soul” meals, is the same as the meals they serve in 5 star eating places. During a dinner in Houston, the chef makes rice grits with Carolina Gold rice (a rice we be taught was the muse of South Carolina’s wealth in episode 2) topped with fucking caviar. In Brooklyn, Satterfield visits Mothershuckers, an oyster cart operated by Ben Moody. We’ve all the time been on the sidelines of the culinary world, however we should be within the center.
This is a lot greater than a meals present. “High on the Hog” exhibits how Black folks haven’t solely persevered, however thrived in a rustic that needed us to fail. And hopefully after watching this present, folks will start to grasp how Black historical past is American historical past. That’s why a lot of our meals turned integral to our American tradition. And there are Black folks on the market who’re persevering with our legacy by way of their love of who they’re, and who we’re as Black folks.