Netflix’s ‘High on the Hog’ offers food for thought on race

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Terroir is a French phrase that roughly interprets to “style of place.” It will get tossed round in the wine world to explain particular geothermal circumstances that account for why sure grapes style simply so. After all, terroir additionally works the different method. Surroundings and habits have an effect on the meals they produce, and meals have an effect on the environments and habits of those who get pleasure from them.

Contemplating that Netflix’s new collection Excessive on the Hog traces the origins of a delicacies, it is smart for the host to be a sommelier, an knowledgeable on terroir. However since the delicacies on this case is American, and its origins contain centuries of exploiting individuals and tradition taken from Africa, it helps that Stephen Satterfield is a sommelier and likewise way more.

“I’ve all the time discovered food and wine to be such an efficient strategy to get individuals to suppose extra critically about the world round them,” says Satterfield, founding father of the food publication Whetstone and a chef in his personal proper. “We may nearly piece collectively any element of human historical past in analyzing our weight-reduction plan or our foodways, and doing so offers us permission to speak about topics that in any other case really feel troublesome, cumbersome, difficult, or taboo even.”

Excessive on the Hog, which streams on Netflix beginning Could 26, traffics in completely these sorts of topics. Viewers will get the distinction between candy potatoes and yams, positive, however they’ll get far more about how the enslavers of Africans took not solely individuals from the land, however indigenous meals, passed-down recipes and cooking ingenuity. The form of factor most food reveals draw back from.


“It’s not possible to have sure conversations on food and agriculture and not using a racialized perspective coming into it,” Satterfield says, “as a result of the foundational relationship between Black People and the United States of America is certainly one of subjugated labor for the functions of rising the agricultural sphere right here—first with rice, after which in the end tobacco and past.”

Primarily based on acclaimed food creator Jessica B. Harris’ 2011 e book, Excessive on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, the present performs at instances like a culinary 1619 Undertaking, whereas additionally swinging between NC-17 food porn, chummy chat present, and transcendental communion. Harris makes appearances herself, however in the end the collection is framed as the private journey of its host.

Satterfield first grew to become fascinated with the anthropological origins of recipes whereas working as a sommelier for greater than a decade. By studying to interact with wine from a terroir perspective, he started taking a look at every kind of food via an identical lens—and was usually fascinated by what he noticed.

[Photo: courtesy of Netflix]

He walked away from the sommelier enterprise in 2007 as a result of he discovered it too homogenous, sloshing in a purple sea of white males, and too targeted round a seemingly countless examination course of. He didn’t go away the wine world behind completely, nevertheless. As an alternative, he began a nonprofit working with Black farmers and winemakers from the Western Cape of South Africa, whom he met whereas working as a somm, and whose historical past caught with him.

“I actually felt a kinship to their story about the origins of the South African wine business via Dutch colonization,” the host says. “And likewise, I noticed over 90% of the workforce have been Black and brown South Africans who owned less than 1% of the industry. These weren’t issues that we have been studying in our wine curriculum.”

The disconnect between wine business canon and the better historic panorama of fermented grapes impressed him to assist inform extra food origin tales. He’d already developed a capability to speak complicated agrarian narratives—speaking about sure wines inevitably led him to deliver up apartheid and Nelson Mandela—and so he channeled his abilities into creating a print magazine devoted to culinary origins and tradition. It was his strategy to share extra views too usually lacking from conventional food media.

It additionally put him on the radar of the producers behind a brand new Netflix collection.


[Photo: courtesy of Netflix]

Satterfield was not conscious till far alongside in the interview course of that he was truly being recruited to host Excessive on the Hog. At first, he thought he’d simply be utilizing his data and connections to assist curate components of the present. It was solely throughout the third time assembly with producer Fabienne Toback, when she requested if he was prepared for audiences to see and know him, that he realized what was occurring. It was a dream come true, however he would solely settle for the honor on the situation he get the private approval of Jessica B. Harris, whose groundbreaking work Satterfield began idolizing at an early age. (She accredited instantly.)

Past Satterfield’s experience and show-aligned pursuits, he makes for a really perfect host together with his magnetic heat, looking eyes, and palpable empathy. His informal interview model throughout gatherings retains dialog flowing and permits respiratory room for genuine experiences to emerge in. He and his visitors flip quite a lot of areas into convivial atmospheres the place, regardless of the often-heavy dialog, everybody watching may really feel welcome to tug up a seat.

And Satterfield, who vividly remembers the reveals he watched on Food Community rising up, could be very fascinated with who’s watching Excessive on the Hog.

“My thoughts goes towards all the younger Black kids, particularly throughout the world, who will watch this and see their likeness mirrored in the collection,” he says. “Who is aware of the methods during which they may proceed not solely to protect however advance lots of the food and cultural traditions that we current on the present.”