Whitman’s poem (or at least the excerpts from it) is an interesting poem because it focuses on the idea of “I” and “I” can mean Whitman himself or the reader. It’s very clear that throughout the except, Whitman focuses on himself and constantly brings attention to himself. The first line says “meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger” which literally means that the meal is equal to everyone and that hunger for meat (or food in general) is a very natural reaction. No matter who you are, you have a natural craving for food and will get hungry; thieves, women, slaves, everyone is equal. But he brings attention to himself by saying that he will be sure to invite everyone and not let anyone be left behind. He also says “All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, Else it were time lost listening to me.” Literally, he says that everything he does, someone else (the reader perhaps) will also do but differently otherwise, there was no point in listening to Whitman. In a way, it’s reminiscent of trying to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made; he’s talking about how important it is to listen to him and the advice he gives. Lastly, the most interesting line has to be “I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones” because it’s such an egotistical line; this one line highlights just how important Whitman finds himself and holds himself above everyone else. With all these lines, there’s always a focus on “I” and I think the food tries to make the reader be able to connect with the author/poem, but with the way the entire poem is written, it’s really hard to.

Fredrick Douglass is no doubt the most important African American leader in the 19th century. He rose from extreme poverty and slavery to become one of the country’s most respected intellectuals and human right’s activists. During this time as an enslaved worker, Fredrick Douglass began to learn to read and write from any source possible. His first teacher was his mistress, but later begins to continue his education by trading “breads.” I found this part of Douglass’ biography interesting as he exchanged food for an education. “The bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge. Douglass later admitted that he would restrain from naming these young and poor children because they would be embarrassed by others for teaching an African American. Even though he was considered “better well off” in the standards of living due to his availability of food, he was able to exploit the poverty of Caucasian children who were educated. As a slave, food was less important to him than education, because an education was his way to freedom.

The passage that struck out to me was on page 1194 when Douglass talks about the “mush” and how the children would come “like pigs” to devour the mush. He also mentions that “he who ate the fastest got the most” to show that the act of eating had been stripped from what we know today and was merely a race to eat as much as possible to survive. Eating for Douglass at that point in time was very different from what we consider eating now; we can take our time with eating our food and order for each person whereas he would have to fight his way to eat as much mush as he could otherwise he would starve to death.

It’s also an interesting passage because it seems like the slaver owners are almost “training” these children to react to this method of eating; putting food on the ground and calling them out reminds me of the Pavlov experiment of classical conditioning where the researchers were able to successfully train the dog to salivate after hearing the whistle since the whistle meant that food was coming (even if it actually wasn’t). I guess from an ethical perspective, I would be curious to know if these children realized what was going on or if they considered this normal because they were born into this situation and trained to react this way. It’s clear from this passage and how Douglass wrote this (using words like pigs and devour to describe the situation) that looking back, Douglass does realize how savage this act was but there’s no indication of what his actions were when it was happening to him. He also doesn’t talk much about how long this went on (from his early childhood until he left or just for a few years in his childhood) or any mentions of the slave parents and how they reacted to this.

One part of Jessica Harris’ In Sorrow’s Kitchen that was something I had never heard before was when the mother pulled her daughter aside and told her that instead of seeing the pain and suffering that many slaves had experienced she saw talent, artistry, ability, industry and, amazing grace. This was something frankly I had never thought of before focusing on the positive outcomes and triumphs of the slaves instead of focusing on their suffering. A little later on in the story Harris explains that some slaves were given land to have their own garden on and after working in the fields they were allowed to grow their own food. This was a time for slaves to have some pride in their own work and showcase their farming abilities. Their abilities were good enough that there are records of Jefferson purchasing what the slaves had grown in their garden. This connects back to my earlier point of looking at the successes of the slave instead of their sorrows. Instead of seeing that the slaves were forced to do more work after an already long day in the fields working, by being allowed to have their own gardens was a chance for them to have some control over their lives and express their feelings though growing what they wanted like and what food meant something to them.

One aspect that really stood out to me in Jessica Harris’ In Sorrow’s Kitchen was something I never took the time to think about:  The birth of a food culture from slavery.  While I have been taught and lectured about the day to day life and awful conditions of slaves in the antebellum South, I had never put much thought into the food eaten by slaves, always having assumed that it was simply what they were provided, or ‘allowed’ to eat by their owners.  I was intrigued listening to Harris describing the foods hunted and gathered by many slaves, which in addition to what they were provided included among many things opossum, catfish, garlic and chives.  The action of hunting and gathering specific foods continued to enforce how essential a culture of food is to the existence of any people.

It just struck me that even though they were pulled from their native land, into an area they likely knew little about, and that they were given very little free time outside of their work, the slaves were able to not only begin to identify the items worthy of hunting, gathering and eating in the wild, but also go about acquiring them and finding ways to cook them that are still prevalent in African American culture.  The existence of such a food culture, that consists of meats and greens caught and gathered by slaves, shows how basic, necessary and important food culture is.  It’s just very interesting to see that even though whites tried to restrict so many freedoms and cultural aspects, slaves still created a culture of food that was good enough and important enough to have trickled down through the generations.

In addition, the few slaves that were given free time enforced the importance of food culture by devoting even more time to raising plants, harvesting them and even eventually selling them back to the land owners.  In these situations, Harris points out that slaves often grew plants like Okra and Watermelon, two deeply southern food items that are still very prevalent in traditional dishes.  It is just fascinating to me to see that even when a community of people is oppressed and restricted, a culture of food that is still represented and enjoyed today can be created.  It shows just how important a culture of food is to any population of people, and just how smart and resilient the slaves were during early America.

From the two articles, we can better understand both the atrocities and common misunderstandings which have taken root from the antebellum period through an analysis of the diets of both slaves as well as slave owners. Often when hearing facts of what occurred during slavery, our perception of the time period tends to be bias due to only perceiving small samples of the information. In In Sorrows Kitchen this misunderstanding is covered in response to the modern day image of all slavery existing on large plantations. “No myth is more pervasive in the history of the United States than the myth of the plantation South- one that is celebrated by some and decried by others.” The article goes on to say that only 1% slave owners owned over a hundred slaves; on average slave owners owned 10 slaves. This is a long stretch from our perception of slavery during antebellum America. By analyzing the diets found on a plantation, we can gain a more holistic perception of the events that actually took place during this period. This allows us to draw a fine distinguishing line between individuals of various social strata based upon the quality and abundance of their diets.

Often slaves worked in cash crop type of fields such as tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar. Though slaves were constantly exposed to cash crops, they were never able to access them in their day to day lives as these commodities were generally reserved to the wealthy who possessed a more lavish lifestyle. After reading both articles, we gain a clearer understanding of slave’s diets and the contrast when compared to the diets of the wealthy landowners. This gives the reader a very vivid understanding in the difference in class between the two groups as food is a relatable subject. In the personal narrative of Mary Prince, she detailed her times as a slave describing what she cooked for her owners as well as what she ate on a daily basis. Prince may have had a basic meal of “potatoes and milk” whereas she would be cooking a more extravagant full meal for her owners.  In Sorrows Kitchen, the black male slaves prepare large barbeques over the course of several days during which they are allotted barely enough food to survive. The mentality during the time was that providing for slaves encompassed giving them the bare minimum for survival and functionality. This mentality is highlighted in the excerpt from In Sorrows Kitchen, “Feeding the enslaved, however, had of necessity to be economically viable process. Rations had to be sufficiently nourishing to allow the enslaved to perform their tasks but could not be so lavish as to be unprofitable.” This meant that while slave owners where over indulging in their large barbeques and living lifestyles centered around luxury crops like tobacco and sugar, the slaves where there producing the crops and preparing the food all while barely nourished and struggling to survive. The social division of food, which is made abundantly clear in In Sorrows Kitchen, allows the reader to more firmly perceive the horrors of slavery and the reality which was malnutrition. It brings forth the reality that was not only a bland diet, but one which wasn’t fit for survival. It highlights the slave’s knowledge of a lavish lifestyle and brings forth the realization of their perception that they truly could not possess it. It allows us to highlight their hunger and proximity to substantiating food, as well as their inability to take hold of the nutrients needed to live a physically healthy life.

Harris’ piece starts off by talking a bit about slave history then about how the states went about abolishing slavery and finally hits the central point of her article – the food cooked by the slaves and how they affected everything else around them. The thing that I found the most interesting (or surprising) was just how diverse the meals were that the slaves ate. They fished for “catfish, porgies, mullet…” and even had land to farm their own “okra, chili peppers, and eggplants”. Although the food they were given by their masters was usually rationed, they all gathered around as a community after work to cook their food. They celebrated holidays like Christmas and had Sundays as “free time”.

There’s so much more history attached to their lives and the meals they ate than I originally thought. Having taken an entire year on American History in high school, none of this information is every mentioned. Slaves are always depicted as over-worked slaves that are starving and essentially, they have no life outside of working. They work from dawn to dusk and are mistreated by their slave masters. The viewpoint is always seen from their masters and never from the slaves themselves – so this image that can be seen from this piece is a bit jarring. It’s almost as if history textbooks have clumped all slaves together into one category called “slaves” and have created a stereotypical image of them. Harris’ piece refutes this and mentions that as you go more south or west, “the harder they [the slaves] are worked, and the worse they are used”.

My question would be is it acceptable to clump these slaves together as one instead of showing their lives as they were in Harris’ article? Why don’t we focus more on the live of these slaves considering there was an entire war about them? I feel like depicting them all as one isn’t correct for those slaves that had a more “normal” life. This article shows that for slavery – it’s a very messy and blurry line that I feel like hasn’t been drawn properly.

In High on the Hog, the Jessica Harris often reference family cooking throughout the excerpt. Family food history doesn’t necessarily involve simply food passed down from one generation to another. Family food can have much deeper links than just involving a household itself. It can link to a wider range of people, even be a representation of a group of people. The areas involving food is a key heritage between the author’s heritage and a connection to her own family.

In the beginning the author would often reference her family cooking and her mother’s interest to the past involving slavery. This would lead into the work itself as she provides an overview of plantation living and lifestyle for the slaves. It goes from structuring in the earlier days to accounts given of their lifestyle. What is interesting is how the author doesn’t focus on a certain group of slaves, but that of various different areas and people. This overarching unification of food provides similar accounts in terms of types of food that was available and how a distinct style of cooking came to be. It also provides the read an understanding of how these slaves bonded and how similar they were as to imply a collective whole whilst still being having individualistic aspects.

The accounts provided by the author involves not only slaves, but those on the outside looking in. It showed a clear difference between the two different kind of peoples during the period, not just in the style of the accounts, but also a separation compared to the slave accounts. Throughout the piece those looking out to within give factual descriptions of what the slaves had to eat. While the narratives explain a much more personal response of what they had to deal with during the time period.

Even as the work is mostly a description piece of history, it also shows a connection to what the author considered important. Even separated into regions there grows a distinct culture of food that even with different ingredients showed a foundation that would change throughout a household. This food culture is harsh, but the people made it their own. It is tied to them in both history through family heritage and documents connecting various people and places together.

In the fifth chapter of High on the Hog, “In Sorrow’s Kitchen”, Jessica Harris writes about the influence of African slaves on the South. This influence primarily occurs in the form of Southern food, and to an equal extent (but not equal focus), Southern behavior and customs. Harris first recounts her visit to the South and tours of old plantations, before diving into the focal point of the chapter – Southern slavery. Here she first lays out the state of slavery in the South, as well as some clarifications regarding how slavery varied across different sections of the South. She then explores the links between slaves and their food. In her discourse on African slaves and food, Harris begins by giving the reader a picture of how slaves were fed. Such a picture yields on one hand a stark contrast, and on the other, quite a similar comparison, to how early settlers fed themselves. Certainly some of the information within the text consisted of fact that I was not aware of (such as some slaves hunting and preparing their own food after dark).

The most interesting parts of the chapter are those that speak to the slaves’ influence through cooking. In examining eating in early America, as is the case with other things, it is easy to separate the experiences of free, white Americans from those of enslaved blacks. What is striking about the information in this chapter, however, is how linked they are. Where some early Americans’ eating habits developed from a need to live off of the land, or to adopt certain practices from Native Americans, others’ came from the cooking done by African slaves. Among the most fascinating facts are those regarding several cookbooks that serve as definitive American cookbooks with definitive early American foods, specifically that many of the dishes in these books are African-based in nature.

Arguably the most recognizable influence of African slaves, if Harris is to be believed, is that on definitive Southern behavior and manners. Everyone knows about Southern slavery, but everyone (I believe) also knows of the concept of Southern hospitality and Southern manners. I’m not sure if anyone would make the connection between this typically-Southern characteristic and the African slave, or between this and food. It has been said by some that African slaves were integral to the building up of early American infrastructure – the nation itself. Certainly, they were also integral to the development of American, particularly Southern, behavior and food.

The first passage read was High on the Hog by Jessica Harris.  Harris begins by describing the different conditions and environments that slaves worked in across the south, but then goes into detail about the foods the slaves were fed, which was pretty minimal.  Usually it was about a half pound of meat and some corn meal per day, anything else the slaves would have to grow themselves with the little free time they had after working the field all day. But of course, the slaves were also the ones cooking the meal for the masters.  When slaves were brought to the South from West Africa, they also brought their local customs and ingredients and these persisted through generations.  Harris notes that in The Virginia House-wife by Randolph, many of the ingredients have origins in Africa.  And that the essential Southern Hospitality is more similar to local customs in West Africa than England or Europe.  African slaves made a huge impact on Southern culture and makes is so distinct from Northern or Western cultures, but most people aren’t aware of this influence.

She mentions that the modern idea of large plantation with hundreds of slaves is not a very accurate representation of what slavery really was.  Most slave owners had less than ten and the treatment of the slaves varied from region to region, depending mostly on what crop is grown there.  But movies, like Gone with the Wind, have created a singular idea of what slavery was.  Media, especially media, has a huge effect of how we remember events from the past.  World War II is see as a noble struggle against tyranny and evil, and most WWII movie have these same themes.  Whereas Vietnam was seen as a wasteful and unnecessary war, and so Vietnam movie have the opposite message to WWII movie.  But of course, do our feelings of the event affect how we portray them, or is it our portrayal that determines our feelings?  American Sniper received much criticism for being pro-war propaganda.  We’ll have to wait a couple years to see how the movie lines up with the national idea of the Iraq War.