My favorite living chef is probably Jacques Pepin. Not only does he say Black American chefs taught him how to cook American food in the 1960’s, his stories of growing up poor in France, working in his family’s kitchen with his first responsibility to ensure the fire was started properly, somewhat reminds me of my mother’s stories of growing up. One of four girls out of eleven siblings, she or one of her sisters would be sent home early from the fields to prepare supper. Within an hour she had to gather fire wood, start the fire, pick the vegetables and have something ready for the entire family to eat or there was hell to pay.
“Waste not, want not” could be the motto for how I was taught by my mother and grandmothers to approach food. My mother always made her own chicken stock by boiling the neck and gizzards on very low heat overnight. Every bit of food scrap was used in our kitchen – nothing spared.
Even though African-American people paid taxes, prior to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) many states did not provide public schools for Black children. My maternal grandfather William U. Stamps was a member of the Utica Institute Jubilee Singers, a world traveling quartet that raised money for the school. On a trip to Chicago during the Depression, my grandfather told the members to save their meal allowance money that day because my great uncle would feed everyone. Upon the visit the group sat and sat until evening – no food ever appeared. That experience was one of the reasons my grandfather decided to return to Mississippi after his travels – at least there people had food to eat, and share because that is the culture, primarily because they were growing it themselves. Let us be humble enough to learn from the best.
My Brie Sandwich is made with organic sprouted wheat bread, a dollop of organic mayo, tomato, cucumber slices, plenty of arugula and brie. Come on by for a bite.