High On The Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America is a four-part exploration of how a lot of what we think about American delicacies was originated by the African American inhabitants, a lot of whom went by means of generations of enslavement. In the primary episode, host Stephen Satterfield goes again to the place all of it started, within the tiny West African nation of Benin.
Opening Shot: Scenes of host Stephen Satterfield exploring totally different crops and having meals with folks from totally different areas. “I believe so much about meals,” he says in voice over. “How it connects us by means of time, throughout geography, from era to era.”
The Gist: Satterfield, a chef and author (he is the founding father of Whetstone Magazine) hosts this four-episode exploration of the historical past of African American delicacies and the way it’s formed American delicacies in ways in which most Americans do not even notice. It’s primarily based on Jessica B. Harris’ book of the identical identify, and within the first of the 5 episodes, we see Satterfield and Dr. Harris in a weekend market within the tiny West African nation of Benin.
Why Benin? Because its ports had been the place lots of the individuals who had been bought into slavery from that area left Africa for good, on the best way to the New World. And as Dr. Harris explains to Satterfield, a lot of the meals that was ingrained within the tradition of Benin and the encompassing nations was introduced over on these slave ships. Crops like black-eyed peas, yams (not candy potatoes!) and okra, for example, had been introduced over as a result of slave merchants knew they wanted to feed the individuals who they’d pressured to get in these ships to start with. Dr. Harris makes these connections to a stunned Satterfield as they dine in a restaurant whose proprietor retains the delicacies of Benin alive.
In town of Cotonou, Satterfield and meals blogger Karelle Vignon-Vullierme, whose household is from Benin, dine at a contemporary restaurant whose chef takes conventional elements and turns them into new dishes. Then Satterfield goes deeper into his journey, each emotionally and gastronomically. In the village of Abomey, he walks the highway that individuals who had been bought into slavery by the power-hungry tribe from that space needed to stroll, in chains, for miles to the port metropolis of Ouidah.
He then visits the lake village of Ganvie, the place everybody lives and works on the water. The important faith practiced there may be Voodoo. Then, within the capital metropolis of Porto Novo, he talks with artist Romuald Hazoumè, who feeds Satterfield, Dr. Harris and Vignon-Vullierme meals that had been recurrently made through the slave commerce period. Finally, in Ouidah, Dr. Harris takes Satterfield to a memorial on high of a mass grave, the place enslaved individuals who died earlier than getting on the ships had been buried. There, the 2 of them make that non secular connection to their ancestors, who had been pressured to return to the New World, bringing the meals they knew with them, although they refused to eat on these ships as a maens of management and protest.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? High On The Hog is a hybrid of Anthony Bourdain’s varied reveals and the extra origin-seeking bent of Padma Lakshmi’s Taste The Nation. But, primarily based on the primary episode, the journey Satterfield is occurring is rather more emotional than any of the opposite reveals we simply talked about.
Our Take: That emotion and sense of connection is what drives High On The Hog, directed by Roger Ross Williams. Through Williams’ course and the collection’ cinematography, you get an actual sense of what it is like for Satterfield to be exploring every side of the historical past of the African American expertise by means of its meals. But Satterfield himself is an ideal ambassador to carry out these tales and make the connections to how African American delicacies has, in plenty of methods, change into American delicacies.
Satterfield appears to be like like he is fully laid again, however there’s an depth to his laid-back nature that cuts by means of and makes you listen. He speaks slowly and intentionally, whether or not he is doing scripted narration or speaking in actual time with somebody on digital camera, however he additionally intensely locks eyes on who he is speaking to and pays shut consideration to what that individual is saying. Even the most effective of the most effective on this style do not at all times appear to be they’re doing that.
Why is Satterfield so intense? Because tracing the historical past of African American meals — heck, the tracing of historical past of American meals, interval — is his life’s work. And seeing him categorical how snug and welcome he felt in Benin, and seeing the connection he made to the resiliency of the enslaved individuals who survived their journey throughout the Atlantic and survived regardless of the unimaginable hardships they confronted as enslaved folks, actually made us really feel the real feelings that he was going by means of by way of this expertise.
Parting Shot: Back within the U.S., we see the within of what was seemingly quarters for enslaved folks on a plantation.
Sleeper Star: Vignon-Vullierme was so charming that we determined to follow her on Instagram, although her feed is in French.
Most Pilot-y Line: Could Satterfield look a bit unpolished at instances? Definitely; when he is asking questions of the folks he is eating with or strolling by means of markets with, his lack of on-camera expertise comes by means of. But when he does get into actual dialog together with his companions, as a substitute of scripted questions, his ardour comes by means of. That ardour is what we look ahead to seeing within the collection’ different three hours.
Our Call: STREAM IT. High On The Hog will not be solely informative, however makes an actual emotional connection between meals and the historical past behind it, and plenty of that’s because of the “relaxed depth” of Satterfield.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about meals, leisure, parenting and tech, however he would not child himself: he is a TV junkie. His writing has appeared within the New York Times, Slate, Salon, , , Fast Company and elsewhere.