Black History: From Inside the White House to the Insidious Golden Arches
History is not only a means for recording and understanding the past, but for making sense of the present and even imagining a better future. This Black History Month, listen to interviews with historians and documentarians introducing us to overlooked individuals and enlightening our perception of longstanding food traditions. The critical conversations that make up this playlist bring our attention to the challenges and injustices that the U.S. is still working through, as well as spotlighting accomplishments worth celebrating.
From the ways that agricultural knowledge from West Africa shaped rural lands in North America, to the impressive chefs that have fed American presidents, to the intersection of the Civil Rights movement and the fast food industry’s expansion, we hope these episodes help illuminate a more complete picture of U.S. history.
A Taste of the Past Episode 291: Hidden Cooks in the White House: African Americans have worked in presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards, and servers for every First Family since George and Martha Washington. Award-winning author and food historian Adrian Miller explores the lives of these men and women in his book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families from the Washingtons to the Obamas. Adrian gives us a glimpse of what life was like for these culinary artists, and he incorporates their White House experiences into the larger history of African American foodways, American foodways, and its cultural impact both at the White House and nationwide.
Fields S2 Episode 4: Dr. Edda Fields-Black on Rice, the Legacy of African Slavery, and Symphony as History: How did knowledge of grains from West Africa shape rural lands and cities in North America? Why has it taken so long for historians to address the agricultural knowledge work of enslaved persons? Dr. Edda Fields-Black, Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, joins us to discuss these vitally important questions. She tells us all about rice farming in the United States, including the agricultural traditions of the Gullah and Geechee peoples, including her personal connection to this history. We also talk about her new book about Harriet Tubman—and her symphony, Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice, which is a contemporary classical and multimedia music symphonic work and the first symphonic work about slavery. Dr. Fields-Black is the author of Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora.
A Taste of the Past Episode 381: Juneteenth: History and Food of the Celebration: President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act making it an official holiday 154 years after it was first celebrated in Texas in 1866. And that was two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Black people throughout America now embrace the official Juneteenth celebration on June 19th. One of HRN's original podcast hosts, Nicole Taylor, joins Linda Pelaccio to talk about this very special holiday and to share recipes from her new cookbook, Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations.
My Welcome Table by Jessica B. Harris Episode 34: Miami: Dive into the culinary history of Miami and the city’s fascinating African American influences with premiere food historian and host Dr. Jessica B. Harris.
A Taste of the Past Episode 348: Golden Arches in Black America: Often blamed for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have long symbolized capitalism’s villainous effects on our nation’s most vulnerable communities. But how did fast food restaurants so thoroughly saturate black neighborhoods in the first place? Historian Marcia Chatelain whose new book is Franchise, The Golden Arches in Black America, traces the history of the relationships between the struggle for civil rights and the expansion of the fast food industry.
Gastronomica Episode 12: Endia Louise Hayes on African American Food Imaginaries, Food Justice, and Sustainability: What can food imaginaries of the past reveal about pathways towards food justice? In this episode, Gastronomica Editorial Collective member Bob Valgenti talks with sociologist Endia Louise Hayes about her newest article, featured in Gastronomica’s Summer 2022 issue. Drawing together political histories, lived experience, and collaborative discourses for future possibilities, Endia uncovers the role of African American food imaginaries in creating sustainable foodways. In spotlighting the work of George Washington Carver, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Edna Lewis, Endia discusses land access, community care, pleasure, and freedom, and shares some of the building blocks of an alternative food movement.
A Taste of the Past Episode 365: Black Smoke, the African American Roots of BBQ: While it's enjoyed throughout the US, barbecue has long been recognized as southern cooking. But the originators of barbecue have not been given their culinary due. African American culture has been largely ignored as the progenitor of the culture of barbecue as author and soul food scholar Adrian Miller is quick to point out in his new book, Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue. The merits of sauces and styles can be discussed from shore to shore, but that may not be as essential as correcting the narrative itself. As Adrian explains it, barbecue is American food with southern roots from plantation slave pitmasters sharing their flavors and fire.
A Taste of the Past Episode 375: The General's Cook: the Life of Hercules Posey: It was well known in diplomatic circles that one ate very well at President George Washington's table, thanks to his very talented, but enslaved cook Hercules. Stories abound about the fate of the famed cook. Author and culinary historian Ramin Ganeshram has discovered how he reemerged, now with the surname Posey, in New York City, where his skill as a chef helped him create a new life as a free man, embodying the foundational narrative of the United States.
Speaking Broadly Episode 151: High Production Values: Fabienne Toback & Karis Jagger: High on the Hog is an extraordinary documentary that is destined to re-shape our understanding of the African American influence on food in this country. Based on Dr. Jessica B. Harris's book of the same name, the Netflix series is essential, honest, moving, painful, and joyful. On this episode, Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback, the show's producers, give listeners behind-the-scenes insight into the production; from what it felt like to walk on the red clay road trod by the enslaved in Benin to pitching the idea for getting it made.
A Taste of the Past Episode 361: Jessica B. Harris on The Legacy Quilt: African-American Foundation of American Cuisine 1619-2019: Culinary historian and foremost expert on the food and foodways of the African Diaspora, Dr. Jessica B. Harris, joins Linda to talk about The Legacy Quilt, the centerpiece of a project celebrating Black contributions to American cuisine. It's all part of a major exhibition at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) entitled, African/American: Making the Nation's Table, whose opening was delayed by Covid-19.