S05 E16: A History of African American Food with Tonya Hopkins (the Food Griot) Part 1

The history of African American food is inseparable from the story of American slavery. It’s a double-edged sword of pride and pain. From its emerging historical names to anonymous or humble practitioners, the stories of enslaved cooks are an integral part of American history.

It’s not easy uncovering the histories of enslaved cooks. They left no records of their own and their stories are buried behind the names and hospitality of their enslavers. At best, these cooks were historical footnotes, like James Hemings, the son of Thomas Jefferson with an admirable flair for introducing new dishes to the American elite of the day. The skills and talents of these cooks, if they were noted at all, have been provided as incidental details, historical asides that have appeared in the stories of the people who held them in bondage.

The foods African American cooks provided for their families, or their enslavers, remain popular to this day. Dishes like Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens, and Fried Chicken, these foods are associated with what most call soul food. Tonya Hopkins, the Food Griot joins the show to talk about why African American food has had such an influence on American culture.

The conversation was so good we are definitely having Tonya back on the show for a Part 2.


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