Netflix's delicious new series is about Black American culinary traditions
‘High on the Hog’ tracks how African Americans have transformed US food culture.
Image via Netflix
Food may just be the meaning of life. Whether it’s a glossy, tempting Studio Ghibli spread or an ugly but immensely comforting depression meal, the cultural importance of our daily nourishment should not be diminished. Netflix’s new documentary series, High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, understands this better than most.
Based on an award-winning 2011 book of the same name by culinary historian Jessica B. Harris, the four-part food travelogue series follows Stephen Satterfield — a writer and sommelier — as he goes from state to state “on a vibrant and powerful culinary journey” to meet a series of chefs, historians and activists.
The official synopsis continues: “From Gumbo to fried chicken, our culinary journey stretches from Africa to enslavement, to the Harlem Renaissance, up to our present-day; we celebrate the courage, artistry and resourcefulness of the African American people. This is not just an African American story; it’s an American story.”
The series dropped on Netflix on May 26, and has since jumped into the streaming site’s coveted top 10 list. And it’s not hard to see why: each hour-long instalment, guided by Satterfield’s gentle narration, is an immersive tour full of history, legacy and emotion. And, of course, lots of gorgeous, heaping plates of freshly cooked soul food.
“I want people to perceive it as celebratory,” Satterfield told the New York Times. “Oftentimes when our shows get made, when our stories get told, when our food gets talked about, it’s the ‘hardship’ story. I don’t even mean celebrating resilience. I mean look at all these beautiful Black people moving uninhibited, unencumbered, in a centuries-long tradition of how we convene, shape culture, celebrate, make a living. This has always been part of our tradition as a diasporic people descending from the continent of Africa.”
So if you find yourself in the mood for “a feast for the mind, heart and soul”, as The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan put it, you know exactly where to find it.