History On A Plate: Examining Black History Through Food

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Few things bring us together like good food. It's how we celebrate the highs, lows, good and the bad. And for Black people across the globe, it's what links us together in a long, shared history.

The breakthrough Netflix series High on the Hog, premiered last year, examining the amazing history behind many of the dishes we cherished. From the compelling story behind okra's journey to the US from Ghana and other African countries, to how the brilliance of one Black chef evolved into the highly-coveted mac-and-cheese recipes among families, the series uncovers the history sitting right on our plates.

Black food traditions hold many stories of resilience, fortitude, and power, like the harrowing way in which grains of rice were hidden in cornrows before enslaved ancestors endured the Middle Passage. Though controversial, chitlings also mirror the ingenuity enslaved Black people in the US turned scraps into delicacies, passed down through generations.

Fried chicken was used as an entrepreneurial tool for a group of Black women in the South, and Black farmers often sold watermelon to support their business, while racist depictions became tied to the foods that provided a source of financial gain.

Evidence of our impact in the kitchen is glaringly apparent each and every day. This Black History Month, as we gather to remember, celebrate, and elevate those who paved the way, let us also remember the ways we honor our history every day through food.

To do this and learn more about some of those traditional recipes and how they're being kept alive, we caught up with Top Chef Amateur Winner Kolby Chandler.

When it comes to some of those recipes that can seem intimidating to replicate, the Houston native told the Black Information Network, "You just got to try."

"Just trying anything in the kitchen, just going for it can be less intimidating," the viral chef added, but also noted, "there's no shortcuts." He first got into the kitchen like many of us –– being put to work peeling and chopping vegetables under the watchful eyes of our elders, which he says is key to "keeping our Black storylines" through food, alive.

"The same way I cook with my grandpa, I'll be cooking with my kids, or my nieces and nephews," he said. "I think that's how we keep it going... the same way we been doing it."

"The kitchen really is a fun place to be and learn," he added.

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