I always told people I was raised on southern cooking, meaning the foods cooked by my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was so wrong. Turns out, I was raised on African food.
Both of my parents were born and raised in Arkansas, but my mom migrated north with her father and siblings to find work in 1950. My Dad — her boyfriend at the time — wasn’t one to give up and soon followed. They married in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and had me, the first of nine, in 1952.
Foods like okra, watermelon, pinto beans, cornbread and fried chicken, as well as all kinds of greens (with just a drizzle of hot pepper juice), were daily fare in our household. My Dad also ate souse and pickled pig’s feet and loved to “ooh” and “ahh” and eat ever-so-slowly while my brothers and I gathered around to stare in disgust at the meats and yell “Eww!” at every bite.
Recently, my sister-in-law told me that I would enjoy a show on Netflix called “High on the Hog,” and that it would change everything I ever thought about so-called “southern foods.” She’s a teacher and her recommendations — books and movies — are always top-notch, so I heeded her advice.
Just minutes into the first of four episodes, I was overcome with emotion and reaching for a tissue.
Sorrow. Injustice. Powerful. Inspiring. Enthralling.
Narrated by chef and writer Stephen Satterfield, the docuseries tells the story of America through delightful and delicious cuisine, starting in Africa and moving on to New York City, Philadelphia, Virginia and Texas. Based on Jessica B. Harris’ award-winning book, “High On The Hog,” it’s a story of the courage, genius, inspiration and resourcefulness of the African American people.
As the “Because of Them We Can” website puts it, “It is a cultural exploration that fuses food, history and travel to explore and celebrate the nuanced history behind African food and its contribution to America.”
One thing’s for sure — our nation would not be near as great as it is without Black culture. Thank you, Jessica B. Harris, Stephen Satterfield and the entire cast for enlightening this aged product of Southerners.