American flavors, African rootsBy Brette Ashley Jackson
In 1923, my maternal great-grandparents, Percy and Arlethia Heath, moved from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Philadelphia. Like the nearly seven million African-Americans who relocated between 1915 and 1970 during the Great Migration, they ventured there for work and a better life.
Like many before and after them, they held on to their Southern culture, most notably in the foods that they ate. New Year’s Day, for instance, was ushered in with a plate of black-eyed peas that was believed to bring prosperity. But this quintessential Southern dish is actually of African origin, and, like so many foods that hail from the South, its history is linked to the transport of Africans to the Americas.
In the introduction to High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, cookbook writer and food historian Jessica B. Harris writes about her first experience traversing the markets of West Africa, observing how familiar vegetables and fruits—okra, black-eyed peas and watermelon—made evident the connection between the foods of Africa and the foods of the descendants of Africans who were forcefully taken to the Americas centuries ago.
Her book examines the staple foods that have … Read More