Stephen Satterfield on connecting African cuisine to our culture in ‘High on the Hog’

A new Netflix series details how food and cultural traditions intersect

Cuisine meets culture in High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, the four-part series from Netflix that dives deep into the origins of African food and how those ingredients and recipes have influenced the United States.

Read More: Netflix drops 1st trailer for ‘High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America’

theGrio caught up with food writer and host, Stephen Satterfield to find out all about his illuminating journey that was inspired by High on the Hog, a book by food historian Jessica B. Harris. 

 “It’s a tale about, honestly, the origins of African-American people as a concept as told through our food,” Satterfield said.

“So as we begin in West Africa and we come through this tumultuous journey to the U.S., that story being told through our food and where we go, our migration story subsequently along the East Coast, ultimately going westward towards Texas. I think it’s really important to see how those are all connected,” he says of the project directed by Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams. 

“I think that a lot of people will have their own favorite particular stories or familiar stories, depending on where you’re from or where you’ve been. But what I’m really hoping is that people see the four episodes as a connection and as a continuum of a story that began in West Africa under duress, hardship, pain and and from that we emerged as a beautiful and proud and resilient people who have completely shaped the culture, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.” 

Satterfield admits he was particularly taken with the water village they explored.

“Being on a whole village where houses are on stilts, essentially in a lake and this beautiful origin story that goes along with it, that this was a place where we escaped our captivity and learned to swim and built a new community, you know, on on this water village was just like the story itself is quite beautiful,” he says. 

“But then seeing it in practice, you know, people on boats going to school, youngsters navigating their own canoe…and by the way, I think for me that was just kind of the most mind-blowing part of the whole journey, just watching this beautiful community thrive, literally living on the water.”

The end result of the eye-opening experience that’s part culinary show and part travelogue is an examination of centuries-old traditions that highlight the creativity and the relentless will of our people. 

After his magnificent exploration of such divine foods, we couldn’t help but wonder what Satterfield would suggest for those looking to provide a perfect Father’s Day meal that represents our history. 

“Definitely some fried fish off the top. Depending on where you are, maybe some catfish, fried trout and then some Carolina gold rice. To go along with that, you might be inclined to maybe do some okra and fried fish. I could see that coming together really nicely,” he says. 

Read More: Black family leaves behind city life to cultivate ‘High Hog’ farm

“And then like, of course, mac and cheese. There’s a seminole mac and cheese moment from Lenny Swardson. I think like fish, rice, mac and cheese. That’s a great Father’s Day gift.” 

High on the Hog is streaming now on Netflix. 

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