Archive: African-American History

A Feast Fit for King

I'm ready if ever asked. You know that age-old interview question about which famous person, dead or alive, you'd like to have dinner with. (I recall such an essay question in my application to college.) My top four picks are all dead. And what I'd do to make the evening possible is make some calls and inquire about their availability for a few hours. In exchange for their time and collective wisdom, I would prepare dinner, a home-cooked meal comprised of dishes with historical relevance, in honor of the birthday boy. Seated at the table, you'd find aviator Amelia Earhart, the dame who kept pushing the envelope with her solo flights across two oceans and her 1937 groundbreaking attempt to fly around the world, which led to her disappearance over the South Pacific. Ms. Earhart had such style, and I can only imagine she'd show up wearing one of her...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 18, 2008; 11:16 AM ET | Comments (4)

Peas and Rice Make the New Year Nice

In the south, they say luck and fortune is on your side if Hoppin' John stops by on New Year's Day. The exact origins of the name remain fuzzy, but the culinary legacy of melding field peas (of which black-eyes are one type) and rice are crystal clear, a direct link to the African slave trade, particularly in rice-rich South Carolina. It's been said that field peas represent coins, clearing the way for fortune to enter one's home (perhaps the only way to keep hope alive for better days ahead), and you'd double your chances with a pot of collard greens, which represent cash, aka greenbacks. Although I wasn't raised with this tradition up north, I must have enjoyed it in a previous life because I wouldn't have New Year's Day any other way. It makes sense to me to channel my hopes and aspirations through a simmering pot of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 31, 2007; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (7)

Getting to Know Charleston

Two years ago, I breezed through Charleston, S.C., in the course of an afternoon, just enough time for lunch and a stroll through the historic City Market. Little did I know how much I was missing, that Charleston deserved my time and attention, and that I was just skimming the surface that seemed a tad too touristy. As I discovered last week during my return trip, I was all wrong. Charleston is a terrific little town, worth several days of your time -- because there really is so much to do and see. This ain't no blip on the map, it's a serious contender on the vacation to-do list. Here's what I now know about Charleston: * It is a great walking city. Stumble out of your hotel and just put one foot in front of the other. The streets are flat, often narrow, tree-lined and romantic, occasionally feeling a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 26, 2007; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Foodways of Charleston

For the better part of two and a half days, I did little else but eat and drink my way through Charleston, S.C., with 120 other like-minded gluttons from across the country. We gathered for the seventh annual "field trip" of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group dedicated to the documentation and celebration of the culinary traditions and foodways of the south. At the table with cookbook author Nathalie Dupree. (Bill Addison) As part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., SFA is 800 members strong, under the devoted leadership of John T. Edge (who is better known as "John T."), a food writer, commentator, cookbook author and impassioned whirling dervish. The membership reflects a variety of food-and-drink connections and interests, including chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, historians, academics, food writers as well as passionate food hobbyists. On this trip, for instance,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 25, 2007; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Dishing Up Juneteenth

On this day in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger showed up with his boys in Galveston, Tex., kicked out the lingering Confederates and informed the nation's remaining slaves that they were free. Two-plus years earlier, in 1862, Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it took that long for the word to get to Texas, the final frontier for emancipation. Red rice: the risotto of the south. (Kim O'Donnel) This day of independence, known as Juneteenth, is an official paid state holiday in Texas (since 1980, under Gov. "Bill" Clements) and officially observed in more than 20 other states, including Virginia (not without its controversies, of course), plus the District. (Efforts to create a state holiday in Maryland have been squelched in the past.) Freedom is an interesting and complex notion; when you have it, you forget; when you don't, you yearn, and the inequities affect us all. We...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 19, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (7)

Let's Go to the Fish Fry

The place to eat tonight is Columbia, S.C., where some 4,000 people will queue up in a parking garage for fried fish. The fish in question is fillet of whiting, a favorite of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and the mastermind/host of this annual fish fry since 1992. He's also partial to the culinary stylings of Lucius Moultrie, who's been Clyburn's fish fry master for the past eight years. After retiring from the Columbia Fire Department 10 years ago, Moultrie switched careers and took over Palmetto Seafood, a fish market/kitchen that he runs with his wife and two sons. Tonight's shindig, which Moultrie calls "the after party," follows the more formal Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, a major Democratic fundraiser. Every year, he's watched the event grow; "Last year, it was an off-election year, and we still had nearly 3,000 people," he says, with a laugh. With expectations of at least 4,000...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 27, 2007; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rice Fritter-Fry

Good morning, sunshine! I've been a busy little fry-girl this morning -- my elbows deep in batter, a do-rag covering my head and "Jill Scott Collaborations" blaring from the iPod speaker. The project in question was a batch of calas (say KAH-LUHZ), a cousin of the beignet, but with an African-American rice connection. Here's lookin' at you, sugar. (RW) It's a two-part project; yesterday, I cooked a pot of rice, mashed it, mixed it with foamy yeast and allowed it to rest overnight to develop character and sour depth. And then I got up at o'dark thirty, long before the sun, and beat some eggs, mixed them with sugar, flour and lots of grated nutmeg. While the coffee was steeping in the French press, I added the egg mixture to the yeasty rice pulp and allowed the two parties to get to know each other for about 30 minutes (but...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 22, 2007; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (2)

 

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