June 20, 2021


All Things Delicious

Netflix’s ‘High on the Hog’ is important foodstuff Television

5 min read

The macaroni pie is all set, so steamy and golden you want to access by means of the tv screen to scoop up a significant helping. Historian Leni Sorensen hovers in excess of a kitchen area fireside at Monticello, the Virginia plantation created by Thomas Jefferson. She utilizes a pot hook to take out the solid-iron lid and expose the casserole dish inside the baking vessel. “Oh, it is sizzling,” she claims, the seem audible in the track record like distant applause.

Then the digital camera zooms in on a sight familiar to generations of Us citizens: grated orange cheddar melted into a shiny blanket in excess of tube-shaped pasta. “It’s lovely,” states Stephen Satterfield, the host of the restricted series “High on the Hog: How African American Delicacies Reworked The united states,” debuting now on Netflix.

Cooking the late-1700s-era recipe comes in the 3rd of the show’s 4 episodes, which focuses on contributions of the cooks enslaved to the earliest presidents of the United States. They consist of Hercules (often acknowledged as Hercules Posey), who cooked for George Washington, and James Hemings, whom Thomas Jefferson sent to France for schooling. Hemings perfected the recipe for what so numerous of us know and love today as mac and cheese. When bartering properly for his liberty, Hemings wound up teaching his more youthful brother Peter to just take over his responsibilities. Historic data can trace how a lineage of cooks from Jefferson’s kitchens spread throughout the increasing nation, circulating Hemings’ base of understanding.

A swift online search turns up plenty of content detailing Hemings’ relationship to mac and cheese. But in the context of the collection, the truth of its origins reaches viewers with a refreshing, saturating clarity.

It’s the power of the medium. “High on the Hog” is a groundbreaking second for American food stuff and vacation tv programming. It has the arrive-hither emblems of the style — the fascinating glimpses into regional and global cultures, the sweeping cinematography of, say, South Carolina coastline and dusty Texas trails, the shots of shrimp sputtering in oil on the stove and barbecued beef staying sliced slo-mo into lush slivers.

The big difference lies in the piercing axiom that drives the sequence: The roots of our countrywide foodways stem from Black fingers and minds. Mapping that veracity fills the lovely, absorbing and at times painful frames.

“High on the Hog” usually takes its title from the 2011 book by scholar and cookbook author Jessica B. Harris.


The exhibit usually takes its title — and its blueprint — from the priceless 2011 e book by scholar and cookbook creator Jessica B. Harris. Her “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America” weaves tutorial research with particular narrative, tracking foodstuff of the African diaspora and positioning the ways that Black cooking traversed course and usually fueled company through our quickly-evolving heritage.

Each the ebook and the sequence open at the Dan-Tokpa Marketplace in Cotonou, Benin, the compact West African place that was once a key departure issue for the transatlantic slave trade. Harris joins Satterfield in this 1st episode. The foodstuff stalls hold up mirrors to their American diet plans: They remark on bushels of okra, banter about the distinctions among yams and sweet potatoes and linger above many shades and textures of rice. They share a lunch in which pepper sauce will make the meal. The two of them check out scenes of past horrors and satisfy strangers for a food that feels remarkably like a reunion.

In a going ending to the episode that I’d alternatively urge you to watch than recount in this article, Harris all but passes a literal baton to Satterfield, sending him back again to America to abide by the narrative ripples that their time in Benin sets in movement.

A pair of hands arranges a plate of food.

Host Stephen Satterfield, Monthly bill Addison writes, is “personally invested in this effort to reclaim and clarify Black culinary record.”


Satterfield has worn quite a few hats: chef, sommelier, journalist and, in his current day occupation, a founder of Whetstone Media. He is a natural onscreen. Charismatic and inquisitive, he also shows a outstanding capability to keep psychological house for the cooks, writers, farmers and other tradespeople (hi, Texas cowboys) as they relate their tales. You see it in his eyes. He is not only a character ushering you alongside on a journey he’s individually invested in this hard work to reclaim and make clear Black culinary identity.

He’s also outstanding at describing dishes: You want to be sitting subsequent to him as he talks by means of his very first sip of Bellevue broth in Philadelphia or samples Jerrelle Guy’s Juneteenth-influenced raspberry-hibiscus cheesecake in Houston.

For Satterfield, his participation in “High on the Hog” is another side of his mission to reframe possession of heritage and recast the chroniclers.

“I just can’t even start off to speculate what the show’s impact will be,” he states, “but I can inform you that had it not been for foods media, I would not be in this article. The Foodstuff Network, Jacques [Pepin], Julia [Child], Martha Stewart: Consuming this form of media was so formative that I made the decision as a teen to dedicate the rest of my lifestyle to food items. Now we have a whole technology of Black youth who are going to see this method. I know how significant the stakes are.”

Satterfield also explained sure for the reason that of the Black creators included, together with Los Angeles-based executive producers Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback, Academy Award-profitable director Roger Ross Williams, movie director Yoruba Richen and producer Jonathan Clasberry, who counts “Anthony Bourdain: Components Unknown” amongst his credits.

“Why does this group matter? Simply because tales are central to power,” Satterfield claims. “People who don’t have energy are written out of the tale, which is why we could get all the way to 2021 and say, why haven’t we found this story about macaroni and cheese advised this way on tv right before? We have the opportunity for the initially time to convey to our have tale in our treatment. It is exceptional and powerful.”

Harris still left many threads for the producers to comply with. “The themes are so powerful in the e book: survival, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, connectivity,” Jagger and Toback conveyed via a joint e-mail. “There were tales we gravitated to in the e-book that we were really connected to and felt were essential to the series: Carolina Gold Rice, Hercules Posey, James Hemings, the catering family members of Philadelphia, Thomas Downing. … We wished to interweave historical past, modern day influences and locations in forming the narrative structure.”

They do well, but Harris also cleared paths for them to Chicago to New Orleans via Prohibition to the civil legal rights era to immigrants with African heritage from the Caribbean, Central and South The us and to other cultural crossroads by using Africa.

For the duration of a food filmed for the present in Philadelphia, chef Omar Tate notes that “a large amount of periods our historical past is dim … but there is so substantially magnificence among the strains.”

The four episodes of “High on the Hog” is an remarkable, belated start out to floodlighting the achievements of Black culinarians. This minimal collection could — need to — be limitless.

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