Why this Blog?
I wanted to create a new cultural vocabulary around food that would draw on our best yearnings to make the politics of food work for everybody not just a few. I don’t have much to say about flavor profiles, buzz words, textures or references to the sensations food causes in my mouth. I don’t come from connoisseurs, I come from survivors and people who have never been able to sit still long enough to assess anything beyond the joy that food can give them or the pain it can assuage.
I was challenged early on when I started www.Afroculinaria.com to not focus so much on the people and their stories, and my story and to instead give up the secrets of soul—to open up our collective chest and let people play with our heart—and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to smile when I needed to cry and I didn’t want to cry when all I wanted to do was smile. I wanted my emotions to be in sync with my spirit. I knew that couldn’t happen if I did what everybody else was doing.
At some point I realized that there was passion and there was obsession and then there was the need to speak to the needs that everyday people had when it came to food. There are starving foodies. There are people whose food cultures are gold but they aren’t collecting the interest on the cultural capital of what their Ancestors have brought to the fore. There are people who are not content to see their neighbors lack and there are people for whom they need more from their food than just temporary satisfaction—they need it to be a vehicle—an emotional, intellectual, cultural, spiritual vehicle—and they want more connection when they come to the table.
I really do believe in the idea of a “cooking gene,” it is of course not the “gene” of biological predestination, but gene in its earliest sense—a word fraught with connotations of genealogy, descent, heritage and pedigree-something you can grasp—if you seek it with all you’ve got. Your full self needs to be at stake. I don’t think that cooking genes are black or white—I think they are neutral. I think they are colored with and full of potential for us to learn from each other and grow beyond our bubbles, boxes and boundaries that we put up because the thought of putting up our grievances scares us more than the consequences of connection.
I want people to know that Afroculinaria is not just Black, its many colors. It is however, unashamedly based in the idea that people of African descent have a unique and undeniably important story to tell the rest of the human family about food—and we love this race that our most ancient mothers gave birth to—and love the planet we share with our cousins across haplogroups and phenotypes, ethnic groups and languages. There is a place for the “Universal,” in us, a center, a wellspring, a mirror for the humanity of all. I say with great pride it is not my goal to end that celebration here but make you, my reader, a participant, a fellow devotee of the idea that the story of our gifts and the revelations we have to share have only just begun.
I don’t want to be like the rest, although I celebrate and honor them for bringing beauty into the world through pictures and words. Their job is to further the passion we all have for food and to add to our lives by being grateful and celebrating the opportunity to live and eat—on our own or together. The human stories that many food bloggers bring are humans in search of bettering their craft, loving some ingredient or dish or complex of foods so much that every secret is squeezed out, and the love and pain we face as we try to perfect our product for the brief moment before it is devoured and lingers only on palates and the brain. Yes, other food bloggers—forging the tradition—I salute you and love you because you inspire me despite my lonely niche.
There’s something special about choosing not to be like the rest but knowing that it’s not as easy, knowing the limitations, facing the voices that tell you not to “be,” not to exist. This blog has not always been my best friend. It is often a very nasty reminder of my own intellectual claustrophobia, the blog captures the attention of people who think I’m a snake-oil salesman, people who need to exercise overt racism, and people who simply don’t get me and don’t want to. I’ve had to learn that all of this is part of the act of blogging and that nobody should feel sorry for me—especially me. Appreciating your followers and readers means loving them so much that the disses don’t matter and that your immunity comes from how much you acknowledge the necessity of your journey.
Food bloggers unite. We all have self-doubt. We all have the thrill of knowing we have inspired someone to be fearless in the kitchen, or in my case—cook on a plantation. We know the blank-outs and mind-wanderings, we know what it is like to be so full of inspiration that you can’t sleep, and we are irritated when the perfect shot is just shy of unattainable. We do this because we are more than inspired, more than passionate, more than alive, and more than hungry. We do this because we are called to ingest by nature, and called to make it meaningful by nurture.
I am necessarily and painfully excited. There are really more things we need to cook, argue about, discuss and revel in our rivalries. I have managed—some say successfully-some say not—to cut out a little mouse hole in a vast architecture of worlds about a four letter word.