Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Celebrate Black History Month!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, February 8, 2023

If we forbid the preparation and serving of fried chicken and waffles, watermelon — or any other dish remotely historically associated with Black Southern culture — from being served as a dignifying celebratory moment and honorific during Black History Month, we will be unwittingly playing into the hands of racists, to help them accomplish their ultimate objective — exterminating the people they hate, and erasing the associated culture.


Fried Chicken ‘n Waffles with Watermelon, a traditional Southern dish

It was with scornful disdain that I read a few news items about Nyack Middle School in Rockland County, New York, nearby NYC, where food vendor, Aramark, served fried chicken and waffles with watermelon on February 1, the first day of Black History Month. Writing for The Hill, Stephen Neukam wrote that “chicken and waffles with watermelon [are] foods stereotypically associated with Black people,” and that unidentified school administrators had said that Aramark “changed the menu items without telling the school.” The menu had earlier been posted online as being Philly cheese steak, with broccoli, and fresh fruit.

Apparently, some folks got up in arms about that substitution, even after Aramark had apparently asked students if they’d prefer those items. Student Honore Santiago said, “They were asking people if they want watermelon, and I remember being confused because it’s not in season.”

And the now-global 24/7/365 mass media, being what they are — gluttons who thrive on strife and dissention, ever searching for reportage of anything bad or controversial, including inane he-said-she-said tripe, often as so-and-so-Tweeted this, that, or the other, which has no genuine news value, while simultaneously blowing almost all things out of proportion, regardless of their, or the organization’s ideological bent — took that fumbled ball and ran with it.

It doesn’t yet appear that they scored a touchdown, however.

The school’s Principal, David A. Johnson, a Black gentleman, wrote a letter to parents, which stated in part that,

The offering of chicken & waffles as an entree with watermelon as a dessert on the first day of
Black History Month was inexcusably insensitive and reflected a lack of understanding of our
district’s vision to address racial bias.

“Nyack Public Schools administrators contacted Aramark officials to insist on a mechanism to
avoid a repeat of yesterday’s mistake. The vendor has agreed to plan future menu offerings to
align with our values and our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“We are extremely disappointed by this regrettable situation and apologize to the entire Nyack
community for the cultural insensitivity displayed by our food service provider.”

Perhaps that now means when National Heritage Week comes again for Jamaicans — who state that “heritage is one of the most crucial parts of our identity as Jamaicans. Heritage celebrations help to preserve this identity and our culture, which sets us apart from all other countries” — Jamaica Jerk Chicken with Beans and Rice cannot be served.

And when Chinese New Year arrives again, Wonton Soup, Kung Pao Chicken, Szechwan Shrimp, Spicy Crispy Beef, Sweet and Sour Pork, and Chinese Fried Rice are all out of the question.

And heaven forbid that, a few days from now, on February 11, when National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinenbi) is celebrated — which, according to the earliest Japanese historical records, was on that day in 660 BC that the first Japanese emperor was crowned — meaning that no sushi, no sashimi, no soy sauce, no chopsticks, no soba noodles, no miso soup with rice, and no sukiyaki may be served.

Which also means no kimchi for our Korean brothers and sisters… no matter how much they may protest, and regardless of the fact that it’s their national dish.

Hopping John is a simple, traditional Southern dish which is made with rice, black-eyed peas, and greens. The first known recipe of Hopping John appeared in an early cookbook entitled “The Carolina housewife, or House and home: by a lady of Charleston” was first published in 1847 and was authored by Sarah Rutledge, who was the daughter of Edward Rutledge, a fellow who signed the Declaration of Independence, though little else is known about her. While the book is widely lauded, even today, and can be downloaded from various sites free of charge, one can expect significant differences in culinary style, from then to now.
Regarding the name of the dish – “Hopping John” – there’s no known etymology for the origin, or derivation of the name, although there’s no shortage of speculation, however absurd. And finally… the original recipe calls for red beans – which are NOT kidney beans. But as any cook worth their salt knows, innovation and change are the name of the game when it comes to the creative aspects of cooking, and over the years, black-eyed peas have become the preferred pea/bean for the dish.

Nope, NO ONE can have any of that.

And HELL TO THE NO for tacos, burritos, salsa, guacamole, margaritas, fajitas, Chili Rellenos, carne asada, quesadillas, Red Pork Pozole, or Enchilada Sauce on Cinco de Mayo.

Do you see how asinine that is?

None of those people groups get up in arms about their culture’s foods, though at one time, or another, they’ve all been subjected to vile racist tropes.

“Stereotypical” food?

Oh, come on!

What kind of cockamamie nonsense is THAT!?!

A food CANNOT be either stereotypical, or racist.

Last February (2022), Boston Globe Columnist Renée Graham wrote about a similarly-related dustup at Xaverian Brothers High School where students — at the suggestion of a Black cafeteria employee — were served fried chicken as part of a Black History Month celebration, and wrote in part that,There’s nothing inherently racist about fried chicken.”

She’s correct, of course.

For her article, she interviewed the author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time,” Adrian Miller, a James Beard Award winning author, attorney, and culinary historian, who wisely suggested that context was missing, though intent may have been innocently well-intentioned.

I concur with his assessment, that context was missing — which should change — and vicious tropes as stereotypes should be given the coup de grâce though culinary education.

He explained, by saying, “If you were to ask your typical foodie to name someone associated with fried chicken, they’re more likely to say Thomas Keller or David Chang than any African American. And those dudes are making loot off of something we were known for. We were the standard bearers for fried chicken excellence.

“I’ve been advocating for African Americans to take the sting out of these things by showing the complicated history of these foods but then showing how African Americans made a significant contribution to making these things that people love. By perpetuating the shame, we’re giving that stereotype further power. I’m saying, ‘Let’s stop being shameful about it.’

“What racist Whites did was wield their ‘soft power’ and start a culture war,” when they “used entertainment, media, and other things to start putting out these disparaging images of African Americans — and the message was this — these people are less than human, they’re childlike. Why in the world would you ever give them full rights?

“This can be a teachable moment, and it can be a time for celebration, but these institutions have to first do outreach [to Black parents and students] and listen. And you have to do the food well — because who wants to go through all of this for some nasty fried chicken?”

— Adrian Miller, Culinary Historian, author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time”

My Mixed greens – collards, mustard, turnip. All cooked in my “special sauce,” which is seasoned and flavored AS IT COOKS rather than afterward. Which contains: 3 onions (2-red, 1-yellow), fresh crushed garlic/garlic powder, thyme, oregano, white vinegar, variety of hot sauces/peppers, paprika, coarse kosher salt, freshly ground/cracked black pepper, ¾ pound sausage, bacon grease (sauté onions & garlic), plenty of dark brown sugar, plus maple syrup and smoke flavoring – and cooked all day. A little warmth, and a bit of sweet – and a whole lotta’ complex.

Food is but a mere fractional portion of the beauty of any culture. Celebrate and embrace the beauty of diversity — e pluribus unum.



Do NOT be ashamed of it!

In the same manner that the LGBTQ community took control of, and “owned” the word “queer” for their own use, turning a pejorative into a positive, the African American community MUST NOT surrender to the cheap faux outrage ostensibly masquerading as “stereotype” to be insulted, and thereby coerced into willfully abandoning some of their most unique, treasured, and renown cultural icons — Southern food.

How in the world can food be “stereotypical”?

I grew up in the South, and while uncertain about anyone else, I happen to enjoy waffles & fried chicken, and watermelon. It remains standard fare. I also enjoy smoked pork barbecue, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens (and combine them all cooked w brown sugar, a bit of vinegar, and lots’a red pepper flakes — see the recipe accompanying the image), sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole (hold the marshmallows), butter pecan ice cream, pecan pie, black-eyed peas, hoppin’ john (image also seen above), ham hocks, cornbread, watermelon rind preserves (a labor intensive treat to create, but well worth it), butterbeans, hot sauce, fried okra, boiled okra w corn and tomato, chicken fried steak, cheese grits, pork rinds, smothered pork chops, sweet iced tea, deviled eggs, green beans w pot likker & hamhock, pound cake, hushpuppies, coleslaw, fried catfish, oxtails, potato salad, peach cobbler, smoked neckbone, baked macaroni-n-cheese, tripe, fried eggplant, jambalaya, filet gumbo, boudin, chicken & dumplings, rabbit, buttermilk biscuits, sorghum syrup (which is in the cabinet, with a delicious lightly mineraloid character to its sweetness), banana pudding (properly made ONLY with GENUINE custard), pineapple upside-down cake, coconut cake, red beans & rice (image seen below, with cornbread and my special mix of collard, mustard, and turnip greens), hot tamales in the Mississippi Delta, and practically every so-called “soul food,” in addition to making nearly every dish cited.

It’s not merely that I’ve eaten those dishes, but that they’re part of MY culture, because not only did I grow up eating them, they remain “regular” daily dishes.

Oh yes… and peanut butter — which was the invention of George Washington Carver of Tuskegee Institute, a Black scientist at an Alabama HBCU (Historical Black College & University) — with honey is a most delightful treat, which I similarly enjoy occasionally. And, for what it’s worth, Enterprise, AL’s Boll Weevil Monument should instead honor G.W.Carver, rather than the destructive insect pest from which he saved state farmers’ livelihoods, and nutrient-depleted soils by encouraging crop rotation with soy bean, sweet potatoes, and the humble peanut.

A Traditional Southern Meal
A mix of:
• Collard, Mustard & Turnip greens
in my own
• Special “Secret” Seasoning blend (brown sugar, apple cider, white & balsamic vinegars, black pepper, salt, smoke flavoring, smoked ham hock, red & white sweet onion, red pepper flakes, chile powder, cumin)
• Cracklin’ cornbread with cheese, onion & jalapeño
• Hoppin’ John (Central American Red Beans & Jasmine rice)
…with a pat of butter.
The reader will note, that with a very minor exception (ham hock in the greens, and cracklin’), this is a largely vegetarian meal.
Oh… some may wonder what “cracklin'” is – it’s small pieces of pork skin & fat which has been fried & refried in pork fat until the “POP!”
Oh my, is it ever tasty!

But I’ve never had hog maw, pickled trotters, chitlins, head cheese, fried rattlesnake, possum, had-but-don’t-care-for cornbread & buttermilk mush, had-and-don’t-care-for chicken livers/gizzards, and a few others that I can’t now think of.

And I am quite familiar with:

• James Beard-award winning author Michael W. Twitty — “The Cooking Gene,” “KosherSoul” —  his food blog Afroculinaria, which “highlights and address food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it” — and have consumed or prepared practically every dish about which he’s ever written, many quite regularly.

• The Southern Foodways Alliance, at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, which “documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.”


I have read and prepared some dishes from:

• “What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles Preserves, etc.,” by Abby Fisher (1831-1915, b.Mobile, AL), one of only two cookbooks written by a former slave, who, amazingly enough, was not literate when the book was published in 1881. The other being “Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen” by Malinda Russell (c.1812-? b.Washington County, TN) published in 1866.

Presently, I am in the process of making Jamaican Jerk Chicken, a dish about which Notasulga, AL-born author/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) recounted an overnight wild boar hunt on the island, and in 1939 wrote, “Towards morning we ate our fill of jerk pork. It is better than our American barbecue. It is hard to imagine anything better than pork the way the Maroons jerk it.” Maroons was the name given to people descended from escaped Spanish, then British, slaves who lived in Jamaica’s mountains — derived from the Spanish word cimarrones, meaning mountaineers.

Once again…

If we forbid the preparation and serving of fried chicken & waffles with watermelon — or any other dish historically associated with Black Southern culture — from being served as a dignifying celebratory moment and honorific during Black History Month, we unwittingly play into the hands of racists, to help them accomplish their ultimate objective — exterminating the people they hate, and erasing their associated culture.


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