By Reina Ackerberg
High on the Hog – How African American Cuisine Transformed America, written by Jessica B. Harris, starring Stephan Satterfield, and directed by Tony Walsh, works to tell the story of many different African American dishes that have now come to establish American food. This documentary works to highlight innovative aspects of past dishes, along with how they are moving forward in today’s world. A large portion of the episode takes place in Benin, a country in West Africa, where the region’s largest open-air market takes place. Native vegetables within the market include, green okra, ginger roots, and yams, which take the shape of “hairy elephant [feet]”, as Jessica B. Harris called them. A large portion of this episode works to identify well known vegetables that many wouldn’t know originated in West African countries, such as; black-eyed peaks, watermelon, rice etc. These West African staples had a key part in the slave trade. Later in the episode Harris and Satterfield travel to what used to be the slave port of Ouidah, which today remains as a mass grave for the lives taken and lost. You may now be asking yourself, “how do those staple items have anything to do with the slave trade?” and the answer is that when the slave port was in use, white colonizers used to force-feed the slaves those staples, and as Harris puts it “The only power the enslaved has was refusal”, which took form of refusing to eat the food. Just by looking at those vegetables you would have absolutely no way of knowing the impact they had so many years ago, on such a horrific situation. Which is why foods hold so much value within African countries.