Cooking on the Whitney Plantation was a struggle, given the fact the work and conditions our ancestors endured on plantations in the American South. Ashtin Berry, of Radical Xchange asked me would I consider and I said I never cooked on a plantation for reasons mentioned prior, so I had to do some soul searching. Per getting to know Ashtin prior to Resistance Served, I wanted to do anything that I could to make Radical Xchange Resistance Served, a memorable event. So I thought about an event, I did called Gumbo Jubilee: We are Better Together in cooking a whole cow (Ep. 10 of Nourish ). I could not believe in the Mantra, “We are Better Together” if I was not willing to host and cooked a meal for Resistance Served at the Whitney Plantation, as this was being organized by two sisters.
I further conceded to cook because the Whitney Plantation tells the story from the enslaved point of view and I would be cooking for a very diverse group. My only stipulation for me to cook, was not to cook bbq behind the Big House in which Radical Xchange and the Whitney Plantation both supported that decision.
BBQ is one dish that says so much about our past and present when one think of southern foods, especially if a gathering occurs. In addition, I believed the bbq luncheon could be about reclamation and food heals. The style of whole hog bbq that I cooked is less familiar to most, can be directly traced back to being created on plantations in the American South by blacks, starting in the ground and later going above ground in cinder blocks or metal pits(Ep. 1 of Nourish). As Resistance Served was coming together, I thought a lot about the lunch experience and how the whole hog bbq speaks loudly to Resistance Served.
I reflected on Whitney Plantation Researcher Dr. Seck’s book Bouki Fait Gombo, that stated Enslaved Africans used the foodways to lessen the burden of slavery and to reconnect themselves with their lost homes as a form of passive nonviolence resistance. The whole bbq pig was so much part of this passive nonviolence resistance. On the plantation, enslaved Africans and maroons would often time take pigs from plantation owners to get food that they need to survive as the rations provided was hardly enough and they were not being paid. On many occasions, they would bbq hogs in the woods in earth dug pits that are the exact precursors to how I cook bbq to resist the oppression and to say I am taking this because you don’t treat us fair in so many ways. Therefore, I said to myself that the whole bbq pig had to be incorporated on the menu, to emphasize this fact symbolically and to say in 2019, we will be compensated equitably and treated equally. In addition, I suspect very few Resistance Served participants have experience whole hog bbq in this form, how my family and community practiced and preserved it. Since I know for some participants, this exposure to the South was maybe the first time and so I was extremely honored to share with them a piece of food history that is directly connected to enjoy even if many of them are a few generations removed from the south.
Finally, in my Manning, SC, cooking whole hog bbq and sharing it with family and friends is the ultimate expression of love and how you welcome your family back home during a family reunion. Eating whole hog bbq is eating “High on the Hog” and Radical Xchange Resistance Served guests deserved this experience, so I looked beyond myself to offer gifts and talents shared to me by our ancestors on the sacred grounds of the Whitney and all people need to go visit. I hope all that participated enjoyed this closing lunch and I would be remiss if not to Thank Chef Chris Hayes for so generously helping me to deliver a great meal to the guests of Resistance Served.