The only thing I may love more than good food and good podcasts is a good podcast about food. There’s no doubt that African Americans have had a tremendous impact on the way we all eat and drink. But as is the case with rock and roll, we’ve done it all without receiving much of the credit we deserve. We see you, Little Richard.
History has many examples of unsung black heroes who have made significant contributions to American food culture. Bertie Brown, a black woman, was a well-respected moonshining pioneer in Montana during the Prohibition era. James Hemings was a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson and the first American trained as a chef in France. He is credited with introducing several staples, including French fries and macaroni and cheese to the United States.
A new podcast that premiered on March 8 delves into the history of African American cuisine and breaks down the role black folks have played in shaping the culture. Setting the Table is a 10-episode podcast that will give listeners a history lesson in African American food. The series calls on chefs, food writers and historians, including Washington Post Food Writer Aaron Hutchenson and Top Chef Finalists Chris Scott and Adrienne Cheatham, to place historical context around topics like the decline of black farmers in the United States.
Setting the Table is hosted by Debra Freeman, a Virginia-based food writer who focuses on African American culinary history. Her work has appeared in several well-respected industry outlets, including Food 52 and Epicurious. “I hope every episode will uncover something that someone didn’t know or cause someone to think in a different way,” she said. “I’ve been writing about Black food for a few years, and this is a new medium that will enable me to delve into things like how Black women use food as an activism tool or how Black women were making beer in the 1800s. These are the sort of things we need to be talking about in order to have a full picture of the Black culinary landscape.”
Episode 1, “The Great Migration and Black Foodways,” explores the period between 1910 and 1970 when nearly 6 million blacks migrated from the southern United States to cities in the North and West to escape the oppression of Jim Crow and search for economic and educational opportunities. History professor Dr. Frederick Douglas Opie and culinary historian Adrian Miller discuss how this movement played an important role in helping to spread Southern cuisine throughout the rest of the country.
Setting the Table is the latest series from the Whetstone Radio Collective, a group of multicultural food podcasts from Whetstone Media which includes El Corredor del Néctar, a Spanish-language show about mezcal. Stephen Satterfield, Whetstone’s founder, wants to use the platform as a means to explore the origins of food and culture around the world. He is also the host of the Netflix series High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America.
Setting The Table is now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other streaming services.