The Enslaved Chefs Who Invented Southern Hospitality

Black Cooks Created the Feasts that Gave the South Its Reputation for Gracious Living 

“We need to forget about this so we can heal,” said an elderly white woman, as she left my lecture on the history of enslaved cooks and their influence on American cuisine.  Something I said, or perhaps everything I said, upset her.

My presentation covered 300 years of American history that started with the forced enslavement of millions of Africans, and which still echoes in our culture today, from the myth of the “happy servant” (think Aunt Jemima on the syrup bottle) to the broader marketing of black servitude (as in …

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How Hawai‘i Taught the World to Love Raw Seafood

Whether Served with a Beer in Honolulu, or Goji Berries in Dusseldorf, Poke is One of the Islands' Global Exports

Where did all this poke come from?

You may have asked yourself that as poke—the chopped raw fish salad —begins to appear everywhere, from Paris to Pennsylvania. The short answer …

Is Ketchup the Perfect Complement to the American Diet?

More Than Just a Condiment, It Helped Revolutionize How Food Is Grown, Processed, and Regulated

Ketchup is arguably the United States’ most ubiquitous condiment. Ninety-seven percent of Americans have a ketchup bottle in the fridge, usually Heinz, and we buy some 10 billion ounces of …

Why Everyone Loves Macaroni and Cheese

Popularized by Thomas Jefferson, This Versatile Dish Fulfills America's Quest for the 'Cheapest Protein Possible'

Being a judge at a macaroni and cheese competition in San Francisco taught me a lot about American food. The competitors were mostly chefs, and the audience—the online tickets sold …

How the U.S. Military Brought Soul Food to the World

After Serving Overseas, Black Servicemen Opened Joints That Dished up Chitlins, Cornbread, and Fried Chicken

Soul food ambassadors: probably not who comes to mind when you think of the African Americans who have served overseas in the U.S. armed forces. Yet no other group of …

Like Maple Syrup, Vermont’s Identity Is Complex and Messy

My Research on "Sugaring" Connects Me With Stories of a Rustic, Self-Reliant State

When people all over the country think of Vermont, they think of maple. No matter the reasons that people come here—skiing and leaf-peeping are two—they often take some Vermont home, …