High on the Hog – latest Culinary Diplomacy event, featuring food historian Dr Jessica B Harris
The latest offering in the successful Culinary Diplomacy programme from the Oxford Cultural Collective and the US Embassy, featured a private screening of the Netflix series High on the Hog, followed by a discussion between distinguished food historian Dr Jessica B. Harris and restaurant critic and author Jimi Famurewa.
The award winning first season of High on the Hog, based on the book of the same name by Dr Harris, traced culinary traditions born in Africa that were shaped by slavery in America. It has returned for a second season, which explores the culinary renaissance that burgeoned in the US post-emancipation. From Chicken & Waffles created during the Harlem Renaissance, to the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program in the 1960s, to community gardens that are fighting food apartheid today, the series highlights chefs, artists and activists who harness the power of food to reclaim history, connect generations and mobilise social justice movements.
Held on 4th December at the Everyman Cinema in Borough Yards, London, the Culinary Diplomacy event was hosted by Rodney Ford, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy, and Donald Sloan, Chair of the Oxford Cultural Collective. Invited guests included chefs, food writers, academics, activists, diplomats and representatives of the creative arts. A screening of the first episode of Season 2 of High on the Hog, was followed by a wide-ranging and at times very moving discussion between Jessica Harris and Jimi Famurewa. Amongst much else, they discussed the maintenance of culinary traditions and recipes of African origin, the demonisation of African American cuisines and their relative ‘legitimacy’ compared with those of other traditions, the power of food to reveal the hidden influence of African American communities and the role of chefs and food writers as cultural ambassadors. They also reflected on Jessica’s own journey as a food historian, and as the pre-eminent commentator on the food of the African Diaspora.
The evening closed with a contribution from Julian George, Founder of The Future Plate, who focused on the empowering influence of Jessica’s seminal work: “Thank you Dr Jessica B Harris for writing the book, thank you for bringing it to life on screen, thank you for telling our stories in such a beautiful, dignified way that is unapologetically us. What you have put out into the world has laid a marker in the ground, and history will look back at it as a tipping point that will inspire those that came after.”
The Culinary Diplomacy programme of events, from the Oxford Cultural Collective and US Embassy in London, will continue in 2024.