High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America | Now streaming on Netflix 

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you where you come from,” says Benin artist Romuald Hazoumè onscreen in the new Netflix show High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, as we tour his brilliantly crafted studio in the heart of his city. Such is the premise of High on the Hog—a masterful history book of Black culinary craft, its origins, and its multiple pathways. The mini-docuseries, inspired by the homonymous book by African food historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris, is an atlas for Americans to find their way back to the cradle of where Black American cooking began.

The docuseries opens on the shores of Benin, West Africa, a major hub in the transatlantic slave trade. While in Benin, Harris and host Stephen Satterfield travel through an open-air marketplace, revealing that many staple African American dishes—including candied yams, okra, black-eyed peas, and rice—are crops that originated in Africa, something that culinary classes and history books conceal.In their discussion, Harris reveals what drew her to African food exploration was the way she thought, “I know this,” after eating African cuisine.

At every stop on the journey, High on the Hog revels in spiritual and ancestral food connections between Africans and Black Americans.

Through the course of four episodes, we follow Satterfield from Benin to South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and beyond as he learns from historians, artists, and chefs how African tradition traveled through and helped shaped the American South via enslaved people.

High on the Hog not only unpacks the culinary cartography, but also the cartography of chattel slavery and the reverent fight to preserve history through griot food stories. From mangi mangi and jollof rice to Bellevue Broth and macaroni pie, each dish highlights the culinary dexterity of Black craftsmen/women and tells the salacious prose of American gourmet. In the series, Black cooking is not only familial but also the source of centuries of commerce—from hearth cooking in Philly to cattle ranching in Texas to oyster shucking on the shores of South Carolina, Black people have not only been the originators of elevated food but also the masters of home-cooked meals.

The magic of High on the Hog, however, is more than the history and even more than the phenomenal-looking food—which is so expertly described by Satterfield that viewers can almost taste it. The magic is in the people we meet along the journey, the stories they tell, and the connection they make with us by way of Satterfield’s emotional tours of historical landmarks like slave quarters, ports, and descendants’ homes of the enslaved.

In each episode, the themes of resilience and endurance are palpable, as is the love people have for each other and for feeding their communities. In North Carolina, for example, we meet chef and farmer Gabrielle E.W. Carter, who is contending with the fact that the city is forcibly displacing her relatives and cutting through her garden with an expressway. But she persists and, alongside Brother BJ Dennis, an expert in Gullah cooking, is working to keep the roots of Southern Sea Islanders alive in the Carolinas.

As culinary historian Michael Twitty explains, “We call our food soul food… something completely transcendental.” And that’s exactly the word: transcendental. Unlike a cut-and-dried history lesson, High on the Hog is a celebration and unearthing of Black legacy, wealth, and innovation, and its impact on American cuisine.

The journey of Southern American fare has long been a concealed history with very little credit to Black master-chefs and enslaved people.

High on the Hog—coined from a notorious double entendre about how Black food has been stereotyped as “less-than” and in need of elevation—reminds us that American people have, for centuries, been getting “high” off the hog cured and crafted by Black hands. It’s an essential map of the culinary truths we should not only celebrate, but share with our communities

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