Juneteenth and High on the Hog have me in a very reflective mood as we near the celebration of the founding of this country. Did you know black men who where enslaved were involved in the creation of macaroni & cheese and fine dining? James Hemings and Hercules were owned by Presidents Jefferson and Washington. James Hemings and Hercules where widely known for a cooking style that could not be replicated by Europeans. That unique ability to create amazing is in our DNA. All that we do is replicated – our food, our music, our spirit, our style. We are the blueprint, literally.
As I prepare vegan meals for my meal prep customers, collaborate with food justice leaders, and guide the health-conscious into a plant-based (or vegan if you want to go all the way) lifestyle, I feel a deep sense of pride and amazement in the talent my ancestors blessed me with. My very first food memory was Fried Fish and Spaghetti for Friday dinner. Friday’s where always a glorious day in Harlem and the Bronx (where I grew up). Arroz con pollo and fried fish and spaghetti were the mouth-watering smells as you walked past your neighbor’s door. I was surprised to find out in High on the Hog that Africans enjoyed a meal of fried fish and a tomato-based side dish! Over 300 years later we are still creating based on spirit, creativity, and the talent of our ancestors.
I use that spirit, that creativity and talent and craft from the food supply we have now. Many of the foods we eat are counter-productive to good health. Antibiotics and steroids in the meat and milk, genetically modified vegetables, fruit and grains and the sugars, salts and artificial ingredients are all obstacles to better health. My Ancestors are Talking Through my Fingers when I create meals that contain healing herbs and spices. Our diet in Africa was not centered around meat. Our ancestors created nutritious and delicious meals primarily with vegetables, seeds, grains, tubers and fish. Every time I begin to prepare a meal for my family, my customers or myself I feel such a sense of pride in honoring the land, using what Nature provides to heal bodies and doing my part to pass down the legacy. My son is a sous-chef of a Michelin Star restaurant, and my daughter talks to the plants in her beautiful, lush garden.
Each One Teach One, a saying the “Old Heads” would say when I was growing up. If you are blessed with knowledge The Creator expects you to share it to benefit your community. I say thank you my Grandmother, her mother and her mother before her for teaching me the importance of the gifts they passed on to me. Their wisdom and resilience allow me to contribute my gifts to the Culture.
Sherimane Johnson, Vegan Chef, Restauranteur and Transition Guide works with health-conscious people who are interested in eating plant-based to enjoy the physical, emotional, and social benefits of a plant-based way of eating. Plant Powered Shift, NaturallySweet Desserts & Night Owl Vegan provide several opportunities to learn more about her mission and offerings.