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Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, Occasional Occasions by Carlton draws inspiration from the Netflix Culinary Documentary, “High On The Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America.” Our spotlight will delve into the profound influences of the African Diaspora on African American Southern Cuisine. Culinary historian, Jessica B. Harris (author, “High On The Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America”) and food journalist, Stephen Satterfield, hosts of the Netflix docuseries, guide us through this culinary exploration. Together the pair embark upon a fascinating journey from Africa to America, featuring creative culinary minds like Chef, Sedjro Ahouansou (Chill N’ Grill; Cotonou, Benin), Preservationist, Gabrielle E. W. Carter (Tall Grass Food Box; Apex, North Carolina), Gullah Geechee Descendant, Chef BJ Dennis (Lowcountry Fresh Market & Café; Bluffton, South Carolina), Chef, Omar Tate (Honeysuckle; Philadelphia), and Ben “Moody” Harney, Business Owner (Mother Shuckers; Brooklyn, New York) to name a few remarkable individuals that are dedicated to defining, preserving, and archiving the rich history of cuisine, customs and traditions that trace back to Mother Africa.

Our culinary heritage unfolds, tracing its roots from the obduction of our ancestors on the West Coast of Africa through the harrowing Transatlantic Slave Ships’ voyages to the Americas. Across the chapters of slavery, the Antebellum Period, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction Era, Black Codes, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond, African American Southern cuisine, customs, and traditions resonate with a profound connection to the Africa Diaspora.

Many of the traditional African American Southern staples echo the flavor profiles, aromas, textures, and appearances of dishes prepared on the West Coast of Africa. Examples such as jollof rice (reminiscent of jambalaya), waakye/thiebou niebe (akin to hoppin’ john), ki ngombo (equating to okra gumbo), and kontomire stew (liking to greens) are evidence of the culinary connection between the two continents.

Notably, commodities like black-eyed peas, coffee beans, okra, rice, watermelon, yams, red beans/pigeon peas and other natural resources not only endured the harsh conditions of the middle passage but also serve as a roadmap guiding us back to the very lands where our ancestors faced capture and enslavement.

Spiced Chicken, Pan-fried Corn and Okra (Prepared by Chef Christopher) inspired by the Jubilee Cookbook (authored by Toni Tipton-Martin and featured on the High on the Hog series)
Spiced Chicken, Pan-fried Corn and Okra (Prepared by Chef Christopher) inspired by the Jubilee Cookbook (authored by Toni Tipton-Martin and featured on the High on the Hog series)

Along this culinary journey we discover the resilience and enduring strength of African American cuisine, serving as a foundational force driving the political pursuit of cultural equality and independence for the descendants of “emancipated” enslaved Americans. Culinary trailblazers like Thomas Downing “Oyster King” (1791-1866) of New York and Leyah Chase “Queen of Creole Cuisine” (1923-2019) of Louisiana to name a few; laid the groundwork for the African American culinary tapestry with courage and determination. Their sacrifices paved the way for future generations with attempts to solidify opportunities that would garner respect as well as a fair share of resources to freely craft culinary masterpieces that narrate the timeless story of African Americans. A narrative which echoes our roots (past), acknowledges our current standing (present), and propels us towards the journey ahead (future). As we fast forward to the 21st century, chefs now possess the privilege to create & build upon this flavorful foundation by using their ingenious will and determination to strive for the future of culinary equality in America, connecting humanitarian efforts through cuisine while drawing inspiration from the vast influences of the African Diaspora.

Occasional Occasions by Carltons’ catering brand specializes in crafting Contemporary Southern Fusion Cuisine influenced by our connection to the foods of the African Diaspora. Occasional Occasions invites you to elevate the flavor profiles of your mundane everyday dishes with our exclusive Bon Appetit Y’all condiment line featuring signature spices, condiments, jams & jellies, and vinaigrettes. Enhance your culinary skills to bring an everyday gourmet experience with a monthly subscription to the Pantry Picks Membership Program, curated to bring a delightful twist of flavorful fusions to your table.

Stay tuned as Occasional Occasions by Carlton continues to expand its brand and services.
“Bon Appetit’ Y’all!!”

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