As many of you know I was nominated for the category of Food and Culture Blog. 30,000 nominations across a dozen or so categories were whittled down to just a handful, and of 6 total finalists, your votes led to our being chosen the best food and culture essay.. In fact Afroculinaria won both Editor’s and Reader’s Choice for “the best single piece of food writing and cultural commentary.”
The challenge to this blog and to my work by certain members of the Charleston food media scene after the Eater piece by Hillary Drixler led to the essay, “Sean, We Need to Talk.” Contrary to the opinion of some ill-informed and culturally presumptuous writers, this is not a hip hop style “beef.” No “beef” exists between Homer Sean Brock and Michael William Twitty. I do however express little regret at challenging and hammering against the many micro-aggressions in a predominantly white food media that so often subjects foodies of color to extra scrutiny, misunderstanding and marginalization just because we are not “off the shelf” types. That’s not a Sean Brock problem in the least, that’s a systemic problem. So if I have a beef, it’s with a system that demands African American food writers and culinarians fit a tired old soul mold; questions our versatility and intellectual proficiency and outsources our story using it to upsell a vision of diversity that is empty and devoid of upward mobility and genuine community empowerment.
There is in the current food writing culture a massive shift in perception from where things were ten or fifteen years ago. Social justice is a key ingredient. Identity is a key to understanding the food voice of culinarians. Voice is a powerful concept in food politics. It was suggested by some in the Charleston food media that my voice was unfair, unwanted and unnecessary. I meant no harm to Charleston, my ancestral city, but as I have expressed, not one African American Charlestonian expressed dissent with my opinions and critique, but many more read the words of Chris Haire and others and were appalled and disgusted. Many people across all backgrounds encouraged me to stick to my truth. I appreciate all of them for their support.
It is critical that we assess and consider the authenticity of the connection between authors, chefs, jornalists and their matter of subject. Expertise, proficiency, connection to the communities we cook in and cook with, amplification of those without access to the same forums, and a spirit of selfless desire to empower our neighbors who struggle with issues of access, income equality, representation, and cultural and economic self-determination are the new commandments that accompany us into the kitchen. The degree to which the kitchen increases in its cultural and socio-political awareness and ethical imperatives and not merely in its trends, ingredients and hacks and techniques is the true measure of our culinary destiny.
I thank Saveur for these awards and thank my online community and family for their support. This is a journey we take together. I mean my voice only for the good. Sometimes we will be uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t know how to proceed with this important, life-affecting conversation, but proceed we must.
Thank you. Everybody needs a place at the table. All food voices matter.