The Rice Kingdom
Our Founding Chefs
High on the Hog is an informative and educational documentary series, charting the roots and evolution of African-American food. From its origins in Benin, West Africa, through to the end of slavery in Texas, this four episode journey encapsulates all the show-stopping dishes and ingredients that have become synonymous with this style of cuisine.
Presented by Stephen Satterfield, a man who studied as a chef and is now working a food writer, High on the Hog is as much about food as it is about history and art. To be honest, one could argue that there’s a symbiotic relationship between the three.
That much is especially evident here, as Stephen charts the rise and eventual fall of slavery alongside the use of different ingredients and the popularity of unique dishes along the way.
The first episode begins in Dantokpa, one of the largest open markets in West Africa. Bright, vivid colours can be seen everywhere and the area is bustling with people.
It’s here the journey begins, with a neat inclusion of a black and white map whenever the location changes. The first episode in particular is really informative, and the ending is certainly emotional, especially when Stephen pays homage to the enslaved at Benin’s Gate of No Return.
From here, the attention turns to America, travelling through the plantations along the route to Virginia, Washington and then eventually in Texas. It’s no accident that this is where the journey ends; Texas was the last place to abolish slavery in America on June 19, 1865.
Alongside the sobering reality of the slave trade however, is a much more celebratory tone, one that examines the ingenuity of African American cuisine and shows how different communities have kept traditions, enhanced dishes and tweaked recipes to their own liking.
Each episode begins in much the same way too, with around 8-10 minutes of history before leading effortlessly into the food and exploring how it’s cooked. This helps to give some context to the different ingredients and is certainly welcome here.
The only complaint really is that this documentary series is only four episodes long. There’s a lot of intrigue here and as a personal gripe, I would have liked to see more about the African expansion and influence in Europe.
Episode 3 teases it a little with Thomas Jefferson and James Hemings encountering macaroni in Paris, but it’s never really elaborated on after that. Then again, this is strictly chronicling African-American food so it’s hard to grumble too much.
If you’re in the mood for an informative and education docu-series about African-American food, you can’t really go wrong here. Much like Netflix’s other food documentaries, this is a well researched, polished and effortless gig that’s very easy to watch and certainly endearing. It’s just a shame there’s only four episodes of this!