MOFAD Presents: Black History Month (Virtual) Celebrating African American Culinary History

This February, join the Museum of Food and Drink for a series of programs highlighting themes from our upcoming exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table, the opening of which has been delayed since March 2020. In honor of Black History Month, six online programs will celebrate the contributions of African American chefs, distillers, activists, innovators, and inventors to our nation’s shared culinary identity.

MOFAD’s Black History Month programming will feature chefs, mixologists, and culinary historians, and include cook-along demos, virtual reality short films, and conversations with the food and beverage industry’s leading experts. In addition, MOFAD will launch two interactive experiences related to African/American at mofad.org.

Brooklyn, NY – The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), the museum that brings the world of food to life with exhibits you can taste, touch and smell, will host a virtual celebration of Black History Month through six online programs inspired by themes in our upcoming exhibition African/American: Making the Nation’s Table via Zoom.

MOFAD was founded on a single belief: Food is Culture. Although we are not currently able to break bread at our exhibition, we remain committed to providing a virtual space to celebrate American food culture and the people who shaped it. 

“In the 400-plus years since enslaved Africans first arrived on the North American continent, African Americans have been the bedrock of American cuisine,” said African/American lead curator Dr. Jessica B. Harris. “For centuries, we worked the fields, harvested the crops, wrote the recipes, brewed the beer, distilled the whiskey, cooked the food, set the table, served the food, cleared the table, and emptied the chamber-pots. In so doing, we made this nation’s table — and our influence continues today.”

About African/American: Making the Nation’s Table:

African Americans have long defined America’s culinary and cultural identity on a national scale. Curated by Dr. Jessica B. Harris, widely considered the world’s foremost expert on the foods of the African Diaspora, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table is the country’s first major exhibition to recognize and celebrate African American contributions to our nation’s cuisine.

About MOFAD:

As the most universal aspect of human existence, food is a powerful lens for understanding each other and the world around us. MOFAD is a new kind of museum that uses this power to create cultural change toward a more thoughtful, caring, and delicious future.

ONLINE FEBRUARY PROGRAMMING:

MIGRATION STORIES: Sustaining Gullah Geechee Cooking across Land and Sea

FEBRUARY 3RD, 8-9PM EST

In partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, this virtual event explores the foodways and cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee people. Descended from enslaved West Africans who were brought to work the rice plantations of the lower Atlantic coast, the Gullah Geechee cultivated a distinct culture, language, and cuisine that formed a clear connection from Africa to the land and seasons of the Lowcountry. 

Join chefs Amethyst Ganaway and Benjamin “BJ” Dennis for a conversation about Gullah and Geechee food, heritage, and sustainable futures. Ganaway will demonstrate how to make crab fried rice adapted from Sallie Ann Robinson’s cookbook, Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way. The program is moderated by Michelle Lanier, folklorist, filmmaker, and director of North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites.

BLACK SMOKE: The History of African American Barbecue

FEBRUARY 10, 8-9PM EST

Across the United States, the popularity of barbecue has exploded with regional specialties in every state—but  often erased from American history is the role of enslaved Africans in the telling of the modern story of American barbecue.  

Join rocket scientist and BBQ historian Howard Conyers, PhD and pitmasters Ed and Ryan Mitchell, for a virtual celebration in homage to the Black culinary heritage of American BBQ and a conversation led by culinary historian Adrian Miller, author of the upcoming book, Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue, that explores the preservation of African American foodways, Black perseverance, culinary innovation, and entrepreneurship.

We will also premiere the debut screening of MOFAD’s original virtual reality short film featuring Jones Bar-B-Q as part of our upcoming exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table.

Immerse yourself in the fiery pit and busy kitchen of Debra “Shorty” and Mary “Little” Jones’s intergenerationally-owned restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas. 

GROWING RICE: A Migration Story from Seed to Plate

FEBRUARY 16 8-9PM EST

Rice is a food that can be found at the center of tables around the globe. It connects cultures internationally but as Michael Twitty has said, “Rice has a long history with culinary justice.”

Spend an evening learning about the culinary history of rice and its African diasporic identity, with curator and historian Savona Bailey-McClain, chef of rice restaurant FIELDTRIP, JJ Johnson, author of the upcoming RICE cookbook and culinary historian Michael Twitty, and rice farmer Nfamara Badjie.

Learn how the culture of rice has impacted Black culture as we trace its roots from Africa and the Caribbean to the American South.

UNCLE NEAREST: Untold Stories Behind the Whiskey Still

FEBRUARY 17 8-9:30PM EST

Whether you prefer your whiskey neat, straight up, or on the rocks—you’re sipping on American history. In the mid-1800s, the first African American master distiller on record in the US, Nearest Green, taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee. 

Join MOFAD in partnership with The Greene Space for a virtual exploration of the overlooked history and longtime traditions of African American distillers with Fawn Weaver, the CEO of Uncle Nearest Whiskey, and Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery. After a whiskey cocktail demo with mixologist and author of TIKI: Modern Tropical Cocktails, Shannon Mustipher, the panelists will discuss entrepreneurship and the legacy of Black distillers and brewers. 

COASTAL ROOTS:  Tracing the Ancestral History of Farming and Cooking in Georgia 

FEBRUARY 23 8-9PM EST

Join us for a conversation with chef and farmer Matthew Raiford of Gilliard Farms, and Chef Mashama Bailey of The Grey, moderated by restaurant owner and founder of The 40 Acres and a Mule Project, Adrian Lipscombe, as they explore their ancestral roots of farming and cooking in coastal Georgia.

We will also premiere the debut screening of MOFAD’s original virtual reality short film featuring Gilliard Farms as part of our upcoming exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table. This thrilling virtual reality experience will give you the chance to explore the sprawling farmscape, rows of hibiscus, and chicken coop of their historic, centennial Gilliard Farms.

THE LEGACY OF FOOD ACTIVISM: A Storytelling Event (FREE)

FEBRUARY 25 8-9:30PM EST

Food has always been political. African American ancestors paved the way for our modern-day food activism, from the grass-roots efforts of Georgia Gilmore selling food at the Montgomery bus boycotts to the Black Panthers laying out the blueprint for free breakfast programs. While our heroes did not have the agency to call themselves activists in the past, we honor and recognize their work today.

Join MOFAD for an evening of virtual storytelling and poetry as we discover powerful narratives in conversation with Therese Nelson of Black Culinary History, Chef Omar Tate of Honeysuckle, Paola Velez of Bakers Against Racism, The Common People Poetry Group, Korsha Wilson of A Hungry Society, and more. Learn how their unique, personal stories of food became a tool for activism, as we trace a common thread from the past to the present.

While tickets are free, patrons have an option to purchase our Legacy Quilt Book: Black Culinary Contributions, 1619-2019. This publication is an in-depth look at the centerpiece from MOFAD’s highly anticipated exhibition, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table. 

FEBRUARY DIGITAL LAUNCHES

THE LEGACY QUILT PROJECT 

At the heart of African/American: Making the Nation’s Table exhibition lies the Legacy Quilt, a stunning visual representation of the aggregate contributions of African Americans to American cuisine. This handcrafted work of art is composed of 406 blocks, each one representing an African American contribution to American cuisine. Standing at 14 feet tall and nearly 30 feet wide, this awe-inspiring artifact makes a powerful point: there are countless stories that deserve to be told.

Explore the Quilt at legacyquiltproject.mofad.org and submit your own African American culinary hero to MOFAD’s story gathering project. Submissions will be displayed online and projected onto the Community Quilt in the physical exhibition.

MAPPING THE NATION’S TABLE: The African American Legacy Foodways Project 

This ongoing digital project will highlight over 100 Black food and drink businesses across the country. Half of the entries are Legacy businesses: these farms, restaurants, and stores have been in operation for 50 years or longer and are still serving communities today. Launch TBD.

Source: MOFAD

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GFDI Team

About GFDI Team

Team of talented writers who have a passion for sharing, connecting and preserving the history and culture of the African diaspora.
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