High on the Hog released on 26 May 2021 on Netflix. The show is a documentary that comprises four episodes, each of nearly 52 mins. It is a food travelogue series based on the concept of showing the rich culture behind African-American cuisine. High on the Hog imparts knowledge on how greatly African food contributed to American cuisine. The documentary is based on the book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, written by Jessica B Harris and published in 2011.
Plot and Story of High on the Hog
The main motto of High on the Hogs was to show us the struggles and perils of slavery in Africa and their cuisine. But surprisingly, it was pretty much more than just a documentary on cuisine. The portrayals of diverse cultures, intriguing stories behind each cuisine and the rich delicacies of Africa will make anyone want to watch it again and again.
The series is hosted by Stephen Satterfield, a chef, food writer and former sommelier. The show focuses not only on the times when there was enslavement but also before and after the enslavement and African American cuisines’ impact and evolution. Episode one starts with a monologue of the host about his views on the importance of food. Then, he clarifies that through this series, he wants to show how American cuisines have roots from African American cuisine and how with time, these rich cultures and stories have evaporated.
In the first episode, we can see the documentary staring with Stephen and Jessica in Benin’s largest open market and their exploration in the market. Here we come to know about an exciting fact that Okra or lady’s finger, watermelons, yams, rice and black peas were introduced in Africa itself and given to the entire world. Shocking, isn’t it?
They then dine in a local restaurant. Stephen then moves to his next spot and dines with a famous food blogger who feels that their cuisine is not as famous as Asian and French cuisine, to which we agree. The host then visits places like Atoomy, Ganvie and Ouidah. Ganvie was the most exciting spot as the entire village is on water, and it was worth watching the beautiful scenes of everyday life there. However, the show ends on a sad note when the host visits the graveyards of the slaves who could not make it. It will give you goosebumps seeing or even imagining the pain of the African slaves.
Episode 2 starts with Charlestown in South Carolina, which is considered the rice bowl of Africa. This place was also enslaved at one time and even had a slave market. There we meet a guy who serves the host with the delicacies of the slaves who made the cuisine out of leftovers of the white people. His lines touched us when he said that they are the only people who name their cuisines after something invisible that cannot be felt, like love. This is because food is a connection between them and the dead and the ones to be born.
Then, in the second part of the episode, we see the richness of the lost Gullah culture in the Sea Islands. However, we also see the problems and people’s lives keeping their traditions alive as islands have become expensive. Also, we come to know about people who have left their jobs in America and returned home just to keep their culture alive.
The third episode is dedicated to the world-famous Black chefs enslaved, their culture and delicacies. We must say that this shows the concept of roots of African American cuisines among all the episodes. We were utterly thrilled in hearing stories of Hercules Ceaser and James Hemmings.
Also, the blending of the cuisines with today’s American food is a very innovative concept. Along with this, we also come to know that Africa has given America mac and cheese and Virginia Ham. Shocked? Oh yes. Even we were shocked that a staple food like mac and cheese was given to Americans by the Africans.
Further, there are two more shocking revelations that Africans also introduced oysters and the catering concept. Trust me; words won’t give justice to these incredible stories and cuisines. But, it would be best if you see them to know about what we are talking about.
The fourth episode is more about gathering the Black people in Texas itself and discussing their vivid culture. It is like a family has gathered at dinner. It starts with the importance of Juneteenth and what it was. Then we meet Black woman bakers and then finally the Black Cowboys. We find the part of the Black cowboy and their lives interesting. It’s thrilling to watch the rodeos and the Bull riding.
The episode ends with Jubliee Diner in Houston, and we think it’s a perfect ending. What caught our attention and can summarize the outcome of the series is when host Stephen says that the food of American Africans is basically the food from the kitchen of slaves to the kitchen of the White houses.
Overview of High on the Hog
Honestly, the best part of High on the Hog is that it not only tells us about the long lost cuisines but also talks about the whole history behind it with interesting yet knowledgeable stories with proofs behind it, the struggles and problems faced by the people trying to save the culture and also actually shows the culture itself. Thus, it gives its viewers a natural feel. Also, in an era when culinary shows hosted or organized by Black people are in rage, this sets competition to them and prove that they are no less in anything anymore. In addition to this, the concept of portraying cuisines of 3 different eras has undoubtedly worked.
Coming on the technical aspects, the cinematography and the editing are perfect. Also, the direction is good, and a lot of proper research has further made it more interesting. Stephen Satterfield’s “Mmm” surely waters your mouth every time and is a treat to watch. Apart from this, the rich knowledge imparted in the series about Africans and the diversity of the content makes this worth watching.
Stream It or Skip It
Stream It! If you are interested in knowing about the foreign cuisines and the rich extinct cultures there, definitely watch this.
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