Black History Month: Celebrating Black Voices in Food and Farming
February 4, 2022
February is Black History Month, and we are celebrating Black authors and content creators in food, from podcasts and docuseries to histories and cookbooks. This short list was put together by CUESA staff and is just a starting point for digging into the legacy, foods, and stories of Black farmers, chefs, and documentarians of African American food culture. What are your favorite food-related works by Black authors and creators? What works have moved and inspired you? Share your recommendations with us on Facebook.
Farming While Black from Leah Penniman (2018)
While in high school, I was invested in our Agriculture C.T.E. program. I loved being in the soil and watching what beauty can come from the ground. Fast-forwarding to the work that I do now, it has further empowered me to revisit this former passion. What really solidified this was a quote from Goerge Washington Carver: “[Gardening] Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” This very notion reinspired me to cultivate that passion for food and the earth. Hence, I attempted to do research on Black farmers who were continuing this work in California. But as you can imagine, there wasn’t too much information available. So after venturing down a rabbit hole, I found out about Soul Fire Farm in New York, as they’re continuing this legacy through the lens of social justice work. What was even more exciting to hear about was that they had published a book titled Farming While Black. This book consists of resources and guides for cultivating the land, facts and figures about being a Black farmer, and just the overall spiritual connection. As a young Black woman, I had immediately fallen in love with the information and power behind it. Nowadays, it is evermore important that Black/Brown communities (granted anybody can learn from this amazing book) learn the fundamentals of gardening/farming. So whether you’re looking to start a little garden on your patio or begin your own homestead, I highly recommend checking out this book!
Damaris, Education Coordinator: Foodwise Kids and Families
High on the Hog hosted by Stephen Satterfield (2021)
With a big heart, Whetstone founder Stephen Satterfield traces Black foodways in the four-part Netflix documentary High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, based on the book by Dr. Jessica B. Harris. From the slave trade from Benin, West Africa, across the Atlantic to colonial Charleston and points across the U.S., Satterfield along with Black scholars, chefs, and descendants of successful catering families share the real stories of how enslaved (like James Hemings) and free African Americans have made an indelible mark on American cuisine. I learned, teared up, cheered, and salivated from this beautifully shot, Black perspective of the significant contributions they have made to American foodways. It’s an introspective, heartbreaking and joyful celebration of Black history and culture that you shouldn’t miss before the next series comes out.
Cindy Mendoza, Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator
Seeds and Their People podcast from True Love Seeds (2020)
One of my favorite podcasts is Seeds and Their People. It is wonderful. Seeds, just like their people, carry deep stories of migration, resilience, and tradition. Chris, of Sankofa Garden in Southwest Philadelphia, and Owen, of Truelove Seeds, pay tremendous and attentive tribute to seeds and the role they play in our culture by speaking with seed keepers who love them most. Check it out!
amy huỳnh, Education Manager: Foodwise Teens and Adults
We Are Each Other’s Harvest by Natalie Baszile (2021)
For a far-reaching history of African American farmers and their relationship with the land, Natalie Baszile’s beautiful book We Are Each Other’s Harvest is essential. African Americans were central to building the U.S.’s agricultural economy and wealth from the country’s beginning. In the years following the Emancipation, Black farmers were systemically discriminated against and violently dispossessed of land: in African Americans comprised 14% of farmer operators in 1920, but today they’re less than 2%. Through essays, first-person narratives, and interviews, Baszile (who also wrote Queen Sugar) and other contributors dive into that history and its generational impact, while uplifting Black voices of the past, present, and future. The book provides hope through the stories of visionary farmers, ranchers, winemakers, educators, and advocates who are reclaiming their ancestral connection to the land, building community and power, and planting seeds for a more just and sustainable future.
Brie Mazurek, Communications Director
In Pursuit of Flavor by Edna Lewis (2019)
Edna Lewis’s In Pursuit of Flavor is chock full of tips, anecdotes, and stories from a life spent cooking, and being a passionate supporter of eating in season. Her recipes are odes to the food of her memories, and the important influence of the African diaspora and African Americans to southern and American food culture. She was all about seasonality, shopping at farmers markets, eating what was at its ripest and freshest, and savoring what is locally available. How could I not relate to that? As someone who savors cookbooks, and maybe even hoards them a bit, there are so many that I treasure, but this first edition of her book is an absolute gem in my collection. I regret never having had the opportunity to meet her while she was alive, hear her speak or to have her sign it, but I can enjoy her voice everytime I open this book
Lulu Meyer, Director of Operations
Marisa Moore on Instagram
I wanted to highlight Marisa Moore on Instagram. She is a registered dietician who posts plant-forward recipes. She focuses on creating nutritious meals that are friendly to those with a busy schedule or dietary restrictions. I find her content to be super realistic for when you have limited ingredients and time. They are also DELICIOUS and catered toward ingredients that are in season. I highly recommend her account!
Abbi Sanders, Intern
Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry (2020)
I would definitely recommend Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry! Even after being vegetarian for years, this cookbook greatly expanded my knowledge of how rich and varied a plant-based diet can be. It also addressed my lingering concern that not eating meat means missing out on culturally connected meals. The curated playlist that comes before the recipes is a unique touch and a comforting reminder that cooking is also for emotional nourishment, not only physical necessity. I really appreciate the creative methods that Bryant used to incorporate ingredients that I wouldn’t normally reach for, like rigatoni with sunchoke-tomato sauce and taro fire fries. Also be sure to check out his latest, Black Food, a collection of stories and recipes from the African diaspora.
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
For additional recommendations, check out this list of Black activists and authors from NYC Food Policy, and take a look at 15 Black-Led Organizations Transforming Social Justice from FoodCorps
Have a recommendation to share? Join the conversation on Facebook.