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Forkways #18: Getting Forked

The Gullah people have gotten the short end of the stick for many generations. Food and land have always been the center of their struggle but also the center of their survival. The Sea Islands comprise some of the first land ever to be owned by Blacks in the United States. These fields and islands were not only about self sufficiency, but how to create profit in a time that resented the color of your skin.

Gullah cooking  about the tradition of making delicious food from the ingredients you have whatever those ingredients happen to be. It is this resourcefulness that finds itself in South Carolina kitchens today and hundreds of years ago. Charleston was one of the first 13 colonies, it is easy to forget it is one of the oldest cities in the country.

Rice: The place of rice in the youth and among the diet of the slaves has been the subject of much interest in many books. Though I would like to say a few brief thoughts on rice as an ingredient and rice cultivation in the area of South Carolina, I encourage you to look deeper into other sources on this topic.

Collards: Popularized in West Africa, they are not native to the region. They are often planted as a companion crop to rice because of their desalinization properties.

Crab: The gullah people are known for their handmade crabbing nets. Crabs were a very sustainable and available type of food during the most isolated times in the Sea Islands.

Okra/Gumbo: West African origin and cooking influence. The slime of okra is used as a thickener. Fundamentally different from the gumbo found in New Orleans, if only from a folk tradition.

Sorghum: Is a unique ingredient because it is used as a cereal, a sweetener, and in alcohol production.

Sea Island Peas
Pork/Wild game: Pork comes from the Spanish. Wild game is locally native and some traditions connect with Native American practices.


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