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Black Hunger: Soul Food and America

Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Black Hunger
    Book Description:

    Black Hunger focuses on debates over soul food since the 1960s to illuminate a complex web of political, economic, religious, sexual, and racial tensions between whites and blacks and within the black community itself. Doris Witt draws on vaudeville, literature, film, visual art, and cookbooks to explore how food has been used both to perpetuate and to challenge racial stereotypes._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9715-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 3-18)

    April 1997 witnessed the victory of rookie golf professional Eldrick “Tiger” Woods at the U.S. Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Even before Woods had a chance to accept the green jacket bestowed yearly upon the otherwise fortunate winner, veteran player Fuzzy Zoeller offered his sport’s heir apparent some unsolicited advice about how to supervise the menu for the championship dinner: “That little boy is driving well.... You pat him on the back... and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it ? . . . Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.” It took a...

  5. Part I Servant Problems

    • one “Look Ma, the Real Aunt Jemima!” Consuming Identities under Capitalism
      (pp. 21-53)

      On 27 April 1989, the Chicago-based Quaker Oats Company announced plans to update its Aunt Jemima trademark for the 1990s. The two-page news release begins as follows:

      Aunt Jemima, one of America’s oldest packaged food trademarks and a symbol of quality breakfast products for 100 years, will be given a new look this year. The facial appearance is unchanged. Noticeably different, however, is a new, stylish, grey-streaked hairdo, and her headband has been removed. Other changes include cosmetic touches such as a different style of collar and the addition of earrings.

      “We wanted to present Aunt Jemima in a more...

    • two Biscuits Are Being Beaten: Craig Claiborne and the Epistemology of the Kitchen Dominatrix
      (pp. 54-76)

      “Beaten Biscuit” appears in a volume of plantation school poems by the discreetly credited (Miss) Weeden. Introduced to the public by Joel Chandler Harris,Bandanna Balladsis “[d]edicated to the memory of all the faithful mammies who ever sung southern babes to rest” (n. pag.). Like other works from this tradition, the poems hearken to a romanticized or, more accurately, fictionalized antebellum past, a period when “the old-time quality negro” (x), as Harris puts it, was “quaint and gentle . . . tender-hearted and devoted” (xi). The speaker is clearly intended to be a slave woman; the implied listener, probably...

  6. Part II Soul Food and Black Masculinity

    • three “Eating Chitterlings Is Like Going Slumming”: Soul Food and Its Discontents
      (pp. 79-101)

      Readers of Tom Wolfe’sRadical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers(1970) will perhaps recall that the March 1970 issue of Vogue magazine carried a column by Gene Baro on “Soul Food.” Published four years after chants of “black and white together” had given way to demands for “Black Power” (Sitkoff 199), and two years after the Black Panthers unveiled the slogan “Off the Pigs” at Huey Newton’s trial (Heath 64–66), the column begins with a quasi-religious fantasy of interracial gastronomy:

      The cult of Soul Food is a form of Black self-awareness and, to a lesser degree, of white...

    • four “Pork or Women”: Purity and Danger in the Nation of Islam
      (pp. 102-125)

      In fall of 1995, several of the most successful African American male rap stars—Ice T, Ice Cube, Chuck D, 2Pac, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and others—joined forces to release an album calledOne Million Strong. Intended as a show of support for the October 1995 Million Man march in Washington, D.C., the album demonstrated an important connection between Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam (NOI), sponsor of the march, and numerous black hip-hop artists. As Mattias Gardell has explained, although actual membership figures for the Nation remain small in comparison to the total African American population, its black nationalist appropriation...

    • five Of Watermelon and Men: Dick Gregory’s Cloacal Continuum
      (pp. 126-152)

      In 1988 an employee of the Texaco corporation, Sheryl Joseph, informed her colleagues that she was expecting her second child. At an office party the following day to celebrate her birthday, Joseph was presented by her boss with a cake decorated with an image of a dark-skinned, Afro-wearing woman far advanced in pregnancy (figure 5–1). (Joseph, a light-skinned African American woman, had never worn an Afro and was still in her first trimester.) Inscribed on the cake were the innocuous words “Happy Birthday, Sheryl,” followed by the ideologically loaded speculation: “It must have been those watermelon seeds.” According to...

  7. Part III Black Female Hunger

    • six “My Kitchen Was the World”: Vertamae Smart Grosvenor’s Geechee Diaspora
      (pp. 155-182)

      In her critically acclaimed 1991 filmDaughters of the Dust, Julie Dash explores the lives of Gullah peoples on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Brought from Africa to the United States as slaves, they cultivated indigo and later cotton while creating “a distinct, original African-American cultural form” because of their relative isolation from outside influences (Creel 69). Dash’s film focuses on a single day in 1902, when members of the Peazant family are planning to leave their home on Ibo Landing to begin a new life on the mainland. Family “matriarch” Nana Peazant cannot...

    • seven “How Mama Started to Get Large”: Eating Disorders, Fetal Rights, and Black Female Appetite
      (pp. 183-210)

      During the era whenVibration Cookingappeared, many African American women in addition to Vertamae Grosvenor were using discussions of culinary traditions to position themselves within an often hostile social, cultural, and political milieu. As we have seen, though, the discourse of soul was problematic not simply because white people were appropriating it and not simply because it was associated with the much maligned black middle class. The discourse was problematic because it also encoded American culture’s ambivalent attitude toward black women, its desire for black female nurture and its concomitant fear of black female control. Grosvenor, as a result,...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 211-216)

    In 1991 I concluded the first essay I published on African American culinary history with a poem by Katherine Tillman. Her “Cookery Jingles” appeared in the prefatory materials ofThe Federation Cookbook(1910), a collection of recipes “by the Colored Women of the State of California.” The poem reads as follows:

    She could draw a little, paint a little,

    Talk about a book.

    She could row a boat, ride a horse,

    But alas she couldn’t cook.

    She could gown, she could go,

    She could very pretty look

    But her best beau he was poor

    And he couldn’t hire a cook....

  9. Appendix African American Cookbooks
    (pp. 217-220)
  10. Chronological Bibliography of Cookbooks by African Americans
    (pp. 221-228)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 229-252)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 253-281)
  13. Index
    (pp. 282-292)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)