One of the first authors I encountered in my deep dive into the African American History section of the Brooklyn Public Library was Jessica Harris.
This beautiful book, Iron pots and wooden spoonsIt was a deep dive into the vast and vibrant food customs of black people throughout the Western Hemisphere, and it was so colorful that I couldn’t help but take in.
I mean, that and all the other books of his that were on the shelf.
I also picked up another book, The welcome table, which told a multi-layered story about black people and food in America. She talked about the history of habits I’ve seen displayed by my great-grandmother (jarring, pickling, and offal!) and she connected me to something I frequently cite here on the blog, a quote from the now-defunct Racialicious blog. :
It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. He is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people who ride bikes are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bicycle commuters” and he only had pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional.” I asked him why he didn’t photograph the delivery drivers, construction workers, etc… I mean. blacks, Hispanics and Asians…and he mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of cycling” and then admitted that he didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably don’t have a choice.”
I was so angry that I wanted to stop working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way, when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their gardens… it’s just being poor, but when white people do it, they’re saving the earth or something.
And YES, black people on bikes and with gardens ARE environmentally conscious. Surprisingly! These values are in our communities and they are good values. My grandmother was an organic gardener before she was “cool” (my mother believed in composting all waste and recycling anything that could be reused), it was religious. God hates waste. [source]
We’ve always had a different relationship with the Earth, with waste, with being judicious stewards of the pieces of this world we were given, and Harris’s work tells that story in many different ways. He brings a more complex understanding of what we mean when we say “food for the soul.”
One of the greatest pleasures of reading his books is No just the recipes she shares and the detailed breakdowns of spice combinations; yes you will need so much Scotch Bonnet pepper, but the stories… hit different.
Yes, I said it like that for a reason.
When he talks about us, there is a level of respect that can only come from someone who love us. Her narrative venerates our history with food in a way we don’t see enough, especially in a time when people are very inclined to claim that our eating habits are the cause of today’s high rates of chronic disease, or to call ourselves consumers. wasteful, or denigrate any other aspect of our culture that is not easily identified as WASP in context or origin.
Give yourself a piece of culture and community before the narcissist-in-chief bans books on everything but casserole. (And, if you use my links to purchase your own copy, Amazon will give me a couple of cents for referring you!)