What Foods Did African Slaves Eat?
Mar 02, · But Bailey says her favorite way to eat the peas is in a traditional dish with stewed meat and okra, another plant that originated in Africa. "I had quite a few okra dishes when I went to West Author: Karen Pinchin. During this trip, the slaves were often chained together and typically ate only one or two meals each day, with water. These meals consisted of beans, boiled rice, millet, cornmeal, and yams. These.
Historical accounts of Southern cooking how to score a tennis game gloss over what slaves ate. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and collared greens: these comforting classics are what instantly come to mind at the mention of 'Southern food.
As NPR reportsTwitty recently held a historic cooking demonstration at Monticello, the famed estate of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia, where many slaves worked and lived. Preparing an authentic meal of grilled rabbit, hominy, and okra soup using 18th century tools and ingredients, Twitty explained to the audience not only the proper technique for preparing the animal, but the history tied to the dishes.
Did they grow their own produce? Did Jefferson give them food? Twitty, a writer and historian who documents his culinary creations and experiences via his acclaimed blog, Afroculinaria, saw a unique opportunity to show audiences a side of the region's food that isn't white-washed.
According to Twitty, historical accounts of Southern cooking often gloss over slaves' diets—which the historian argues were the backbones of the cuisine. It was just straight up a very bland, neutral version of history," he says. While Dierkshede acknowledges that the slavery conversation can be an uncomfortable one, particularly among southerners, having that conversation over a good meal can ease that tension.
And everybody has some kind of food tradition in their family. And to talk about what that tradition or culture was among the lives of African-Americans is a way for us to try to understand the lives of enslaved people in a more holistic way," she says. Dierkshede and Twitty alike hope that by framing slavery through the lens of Southern cooking, they can being to open up a dialogue around the impact African-Americans have had on the Southern cooking of the past and the present.
Inside the Real History of Southern Food. By Gillie Houston Updated May 24, Save FB Tweet ellipsis More. Michae Twitty Southern Food Roots. Share options. Close Login. All rights reserved. View image.
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Dec 01, · The two greatest sources of food were pork and corn meal from Indian corn. Slaves were assigned a small plot of land to grow vegetables, so their diets could be .
Sapelo, a barrier island about the size of Manhattan, has about 50 residents, primarily descendants of African slaves who settled here after slavery was outlawed. In Bailey's family, the tiny red legume, with its thin, firm shell; creamy interior; and sweet, buttery flavor was just another staple she and her family planted, harvested, and cooked.
This red pea, which originated in Africa and is the original ingredient in the region's quintessential rice-and-beans dish Hoppin' John, is just one of the many heritage crops from the African continent receiving new attention from farmers, chefs, scientists, and food historians.
Growing numbers of researchers, many of them African-American, are bringing to light the uncredited ways slaves and their descendants have shaped how Americans eat. Red peas are a tangible connection to her own African heritage, Bailey says, and one reason why she has started to grow the crop commercially.
That meant the slaves could plant for themselves," says Bailey, who has recruited other local farmers to plant the crop this spring. At the top of that list is Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins, who has concocted several ways to serve her peas at his acclaimed southern-upscale Restaurant Eugene , including in his version of Hoppin' John.
But Bailey says her favorite way to eat the peas is in a traditional dish with stewed meat and okra, another plant that originated in Africa. They had it in stews and stuff—very, very similar to what we eat here," she says. Culinary historian and author Jessica Harris says food traditions hold symbols and meaning that serve as a historical roadmap.
For decades she has used an image of okra on her business cards as a symbol of her family's African roots and her own connection to the continent's cuisine. But as the green, finger-shaped vegetable pops up on menus across the United States as an emblem of southern American cooking, the true narrative of the plant is at risk of disappearing, Harris says, speaking at a recent conference on food culture and history at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.
While gumbo, the flagship dish of New Orleans, is usually thickened with okra, the technique is actually an adaptation of soupikandia, a Senegalese soupy stew slave cooks prepared in plantation kitchens for both themselves and their owners. Her own mission is to make sure that the contribution of slaves to America's culinary traditions isn't forgotten. The primary challenge, Harris says, is reconstructing history when one group of people—in this case, white slave owners—did their best to subjugate Africans to the point where they were nearly left out entirely.
David Shields , a professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and an expert in early American literature and food revivals, points to Emeline Jones as an example. Jones was a slave who started as a house servant and rose to the pinnacle of American culinary life with her extravagant multicourse meals. She earned admiration—and job offers—from Presidents Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland, who sampled her fabulous meals of terrapin and canvasback duck, Lynnhaven oysters and crab salad, hominy cakes and fabulous confections, prepared when Jones worked as a cook at New York clubs in the late s.
Her story might have been lost if Shields had not dug through news articles and obituaries to re-create her life. Researcher Alicia Cromwell says one major challenge is "studying the silences," a phrase coined by Harris, which forces researchers to engage in detective-style deductions to piece together a more complete view of history in the absence of primary documents like diaries and letters written by slaves. When working on her master's thesis, Cromwell buried herself in documents—legislative records, tax rolls, newspaper clippings, and primary sources other scholars had reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of times before—and was able to discern that female Muslim Nigerian slaves, working as fruit sellers and market vendors on behalf of their owners, helped shape the overall economic structure of the American South with long-distance price fixing and aggressive sales techniques.
Georgia chef and farmer Matthew Raiford is able to reconstruct his family's past through his farm, which has been in his family since He came to the North Carolina conference with a yellowed letter, a rare piece of history addressed from his great-grandmother to his grandmother, detailing how and where to plant corn, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and watermelon.
His great-great-great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard, the man who purchased the farm, was born a slave in Bailey, back on Sapelo, agrees. Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Alicia Cromwell is a doctoral student at the University of South Carolina.
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