It’s a revelation. The rich records of Black history cooking and the way it has stimulated American cuisine is on view on this enlightening, heartfelt and exceptionally well-crafted documentary. The host for this 4-part Netflix epicurean travelogue is Stephen Satterfield, founder of Whetstone Magazine, which is dedicated to food origins and subculture. He starts his culinary adventure in western Africa and continues to the U.S., making his deeply private sojourn a voyage of self-discovery for absolutely everyone.
In Episode I, Satterfield receives an illuminating tour of Benin, by way of Dr. Jessica B. Harris, writer of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, whose e book is the source material for the docuseries. Her deep, shaman-like voice is reminiscent of Maya Angelou’s and makes you sense like you’re within the presence of an oracle. Harris: “Food is how we recognise who we are and how we are connected.” She and other publications, cooks (Valérie Vinakpon) and preservationists don’t forget how African people have been rounded up, enslaved, delivered to boats in port cities like Benin’s Ouidah and vetted. The captives were shipped out and their meals traditions got here with them on their harrowing transatlantic passages to the western hemisphere. Learning that okra, yams, black-eyed peas, fava beans and rice are staples there and here is captivating. Discovering the history of the four-kilometer slave trail that ran from the center of Ouidah to the ocean and a mass grave (Cemetery of Slaves), is so sobering it devastates Satterfield and will have the same impact on audiences.
Episode 2 takes the complaints to Charleston, South Carolina, wherein different emissaries chart the history of Black cuisine, with in particular profound insights from Michael W. Twitty, writer of the meals blog Afroculinaria and ebook The Cooking Gene: A journey Through African American Culinary History within the Old South. “Cooking places you in the presence of our ancestors,” notes Twitty. He and others expound on the important factors of Black cuisine that encouraged American food, from Carolina Golden Rice to using all parts of the pig (aka excessive on the hog). A very deep upkeep of African existence has been maintained on South Carolina’s remoted Sea Islands as manifested in Gullah Geechee subculture. Viewers additionally learn that enslaved chefs installed the palette for a brand new democracy, and elders to these days educate the following generations the way to prepare dinner, consequently retaining traditions.
Episode 3 spotlights of the most lauded epicureans of the 18th and nineteenth centuries, Hercules Posey, head chef for Pres. George Washington and James Hemings, for Thomas Jefferson. The latter, brother of Sally Hemings, turned into the first American chef to train in France and is credited for bringing French fries and mac and cheese to America. Their careers, households and fights for freedom are recognized. Specific menus and pics are non-existent. The Los Angeles’ eating place Hatchet Hall maintains their shape of fireplace cooking alive serving history-prompted dishes like Hemings Snow Eggs (smooth custard with basil, peach, toasted almond). Equally intriguing are the memories of Thomas Downing, the entrepreneurial Oyster King of New York City, and the smart businessman Albert E. Dutrieuille who created a catering empire/dynasty in Philly.
Episode 4 brings the collection to a conclusion because the production ventures to Texas, highlighting the significance of the holiday Juneteenth. Satterfield is briefed at the history through James Beard finalist Jerrelle Guy, creator of Black Girl Baking, who unveils some of her prized cakes (Raw raspberry-hibiscus cheesecake) and their historic significance. Meeting Black cowboys (Northeastern Trail Riders Association) and seeing how African Americans prompted cowboy subculture—from cuisine to rodeo events—is likewise very informative. Add in clips of tantalizing cowboy stew, pork brisket, toddler again red meat ribs and tamarind paste broth and the intersection of lifestyle and food maintains to amaze. It’s like taking a graduate course in four self-contained episodes.
Technically, the entire production crew have to take a deep bow. The wealthy colors, attractive patterns, and vibrant restaurant scenes are in part courtesy of manufacturing dressmaker Kati Davenport. Engaging digicam angles, overhead pictures and intimate portrait-like closeups from cinematographer Jerry Henry (I Promise Africa) in no way fail to mesmerize. All segments have a natural rhythm due to the fact editor Ephraim Kirkwood (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men) reduce the footage with a positive precision whilst string tune and other sounds caress the proceedings because of composer/musician John Zarcone. The general excellence of the complete collection is courtesy of directors Roger Ross Williams (The Apollo), Jonathan Classberry and Yoruba Richen. Conversations, dialogue and an in depth blueprint are thanks to writers Classberry, Shoshana Guy (Dateline NBC) and Christina Lenis (Gun Trucks of Vietnam).
If ever there was a culinary collection deserving of an Emmy, that is it. Its indelible snap shots, emotionally peaked encounters and wealth of history and know-how are first rate. Black America’s legacy lives on due to the fact people guard the gates of our tradition. The makers of this exceptional miniseries and the publications who take us on this journey are the ones guardians.