In Charleston, where we have gathered on a former slave plantation to try to talk deeply about foodways and culture and history, there are no African-Americans or Africans in the core of the group. Rodney Scott was cooking at the BBQ, but he and the cooks at Tuesday’s Gullah night were just role players. Alessandro’s method of dealing with this is not to be defensive or minimize what damage that exclusion might do to the central conceit of the week. Rather, he wants to maximize it, to make it emotional. So, following an afternoon side trip he took to one of the original organic-certified African-American farms in the area, he appears before us at a near-quaver and begins to speak.
Why this is happening? We are all here, we are sharing beautiful moments, we are talking about raw materials. And it doesn’t feel right in a way, those beautiful black people, they came here, to be enslaved. They brought their ingredients, they brought their culture, which this Lowcountry cuisine has been built upon. And I don’t see them here. So I am sad in a way, and I just want to share this sadness with you tonight. Because they are so beautiful.
It’s a bit puerile, in that way that this chef culture can be these days. That’s one of the reasons why Shewry is harvesting rice: He grew up farming in New Zealand, he tells me that morning, and his father wouldn’t think it right to come and shoot a living creature just for the experience of it. I have a similar reaction when it comes to the goat that was killed for the afternoon cookout. I don’t know much about cuisine, but I do know about raising goats, and my uncle would not have kept a meat-goat, as this one was, in a large dog crate for a few miserable hours before being led into the woods for messy end (protip: string a goat up and bleed it out, don’t shoot it like it’s a Russian mobster you’re chasing through the Pine Barrens).
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