The Enduring Effect of ‘High on the Hog’

The format may sound familiar to fans of other Netflix food shows, but make no mistake, Hog. high on doing something different. The series explores African American culinary history, beginning in Benin where, in one particularly intense scene, host Stephen Satterfield and historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris visited the slaves’ cemetery, which marks the mass graves of West Africans who had previously died in captivity. They could be placed on ships bound for America. It is the survivors of that journey, and their resilience, exemplified through the myriad contributions to American culinary culture, that populate the latter three episodes.

The result is a sense of long-awaited validation for those who have deep roots African American Barbecue Tradition At the same time they, who watch the episode titled “Our Founding Chefs”, realize for the first time that their grandmother’s mac and cheese recipe is almost identical and similar to the version introduced to this country by James Hemings, Thomas Jefferson. The slave of the cook. And in completing the entire series, one is left with the feeling that, given its place on the streaming platform regularly watched by millions, the show has shifted the broader cultural consciousness around African American culinary history. have the ability to, or at the very least, raise the profile of their specialized stewards like Omar Tate, BJ Dennis, Tony Tipton-Martin, Michael Twitty, and of course, Dr. Harris to the level of recognition they deserve.

Hog. high on Also provides a new spotlight for Satterfield, as an audience guide and stand-in. but the founder of Whetstone Media Wants to make it clear that, while he understands the inclination to thank the host of such a show – and in the weeks following its premiere, he says he received publications such as Thank You from admired audiences around the world is. new York Times The show is praised for its cultural significance – it is merely the “vessel for the material”. series is based on A book of the same name by Dr. Harriso, and it was Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback who read that segment and believed it should be a television show. and Hog. high on This wouldn’t happen without contributions from other Black creatives, including director Roger Ross Williams, whose “talent and the confidence Netflix has put in him allows the show to be greenlighted,” and showrunner Shoshanna Guy. “All the nuance needed, all the care needed to materialize, really needed a black woman to be on the demonstrative side,” Satterfield says. “And Shoshanna did an amazing job.”

I spoke to Satterfield about the culmination of these efforts and its impact Hog. high on. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Eater: How do you feel now that this is in the world?

Stephen Satterfield: I am very relieved. The announcement was being made and the show hadn’t been released yet, but obviously we’ve gotten past that point, it was really weird. The reception has been wonderful; It exceeded my expectations too.

What were your expectations from going into it?

It’s funny, I knew you were going to ask me this, but the truth is I really had no hope. I guess what I meant to say was that I never expected the kind of response we got. We had never seen anything like this in the food and travel genre. The show’s creators, the subject of the show, were really about us reflecting our love for black people and black culture and our appreciation for all those contributions, and I think black people in the diaspora have taken that attention. He felt that care and Mahi Mahi. For me this was by far the most gratifying part of the whole experience.

The show does such a great job of diving into the past and addressing it, but there is a sense of joy overall. I think this quote from Omar Tate in the third episode encapsulates that idea: “At times our history is dark, or we see it as dark. But there was just so much beauty between the lines and I think That the menu and the food is the synthesis that happens between the lines, in the middle of history.”

What were you thinking about when you were making it, and how did you walk that line between showing and accepting history, but not getting caught up in the darkness of it?

We didn’t need to prepare for that, because that’s really, I think, the authentic nature of black people in the United States, and really everywhere. The word that often comes before any description of a black person in America who is resilient, is there for a reason and it speaks to the incredible ability and quality of our community to bounce back and enjoy themselves despite all the tyranny. is. has suffered.

We didn’t have to direct in the parts of our story that were sad or difficult. It is very easy to reach that calm feeling, that bad feeling. It is always close to the surface, but that black love and joy and community is also close to the surface. Umar is a domestic player, he is someone I respect. Filming in his company, eating his food – that’s the joy, it’s a celebration in itself. Gabrielle [Etienne] Someone I love, admire and respect. bj [Dennis] And so many other incredible talents of our people, our culture and our story are showing it back to the world in incredible ways. It was just an honor to be able to share that experience with him.

Filming for Stephen Satterfield and BJ Dennis Hog. high on

Something else that I really appreciated about the show was its scope. As I saw it, there were parts I learned from and others that just brought a deeper sense of identity; As we are going through the show, we can see you experiencing both sides of it. What were some of those learning moments for you?

Certainly everything in Benin was a revelation. Romuald Hazoumè, artist, I found him to be great artists, so insightful and revelatory in his work with oil cans and through that artwork broke the geopolitics between Nigeria and Benin.

Knowing about the warrior women of Dahomey, this was a history I read about. But being in Dahomey, being on that red soil, getting a sense of what life was like on the continent hundreds of years ago, how many tribal groups lived alongside each other and, as we see in the movie They are, of course, complicated — difficult complexity is also part of the story. These are things you can read about, but seeing the physical environment, talking to descendants and talking to teachers and historians in that place and place is a really deep learning opportunity that will stay with me forever.

In the first episode, food blogger Karelle Vignon-Vullierme says, “I don’t understand why African food isn’t as popular as Asian cuisine or French cuisine.” Do you think so? Hog. high on Will that needle move?

It’s only been a week, but I think this show has the potential and potential to not only change the culture, but [also] Display [running] culture. We have seen time and again in the media, and especially in the entertainment sector, that Black creators are extremely successful when they are given the resources to tell their stories. We have seen the result of this time and again in Hollywood. And I hope that as far as the food media and food travel space, it changes the idea of ​​who can be the host as well as how we can tell stories about food.

You have a long and established career in food media; Does the Netflix spotlight feel like an isolated area?

Absolutely, yes.

Where do you want to go from here? What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m the CEO of Whetstone Media. I have a huge responsibility to run and grow our company. I’ll continue to focus on that, and I’m doing exactly what I want to do. much like Hog. high onThe work we do is about improvement. This narrative is about exclusion and erasure and pushing back against distortion and illusion, and about reclaiming our own identity and power and being connected to our history. You look at it as we present and promote that dialogue.

I think that feedback has been valid for me, if anything, to my overall business thesis that food is a powerful way to connect with people’s identities, radicalize people, and instill some much-needed pride in one’s culture that makes them happy. allows. himself in the world. And hopefully by staying safe in their place in the world, they are able to make the world safer and more open to other cultures. I think this show has demonstrated that there is a lot of truth to that thesis that is based on the really personal, intimate reactions I’m seeing from people all over the world.

Can you share any of these feedback that inspired you in particular?

One thing I’ve seen a lot is letters from Brazil, from our cousins ​​on the other side of this trade, who were statistically affected far more than the United States. That desire for engagement, and the intensity and profound gratitude of his writing, tells me how deeply he was affected by the show. That cousin connection for me has been the thing that hit me in the chest the most and also told me how deep this stuff goes.

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