Black Americans have faced the unimaginable, and while there is still a long way to go, the High on the Hog Netflix series celebrates the resilience of our people by honing in on the language that connects us all: food.
In season 1 of Netflix’s High on the Hog, host Stephen Satterfield and renowned culinary scholar Jessica B. Harris explored the cuisine across the diaspora that connects our people to the motherland. For the series’ second installment, they focus on the delicacies stemming from prominent Black communities, including New Orleans, Chicago and many others.
“I think the whole notion of how much history we have within ourselves that we don’t know, that we don’t examine, that we don’t look at,” Harris told Blavity’s Shadow and Act. “We talk to our elders, but not in the same way that we did when I was your age or younger. We have, in many families, given up the whole idea of family dinner on a weeknight. We may still do it on Sunday, but that’s when the exchanges used to take place.”
She continued, “So, what I am hoping is that this, particularly because there are so many intergenerational conversations in this season, might encourage people your age to talk to people my age.”
Satterfield had a very personal experience this season, having traced the roots of his grandfather, who worked as a Pullman porter in Chicago.
“It was a quite profound experience, one of the most I’ve had actually on or off camera,” he recalled of the episode in which the crew voyaged to Chicago and spoke directly with Pullman operators from the past. “And one that I am still processing in some ways as I never had the chance to meet my grandfather, and Mr. Gaines, actually since the filming, unfortunately, has moved on, so I’m holding a lot with that. But, it was quite profound and an honor to lift up my grandfather’s name like that.”
Beyond just connecting the rich history of Black Americans and their families through food and fellowship, the name of the show alone holds a lot of power.
“The book High on the Hog begins with the story that allegedly gives us that expression, which goes back to like a master and John trickster tale. The bottom line is John, who is the enslaved person, gets over on ol’ massa, gets his own hogs, gets beyond the chitlins and pigs’ feet and ears and tails that master would give him for slaughtering a hog, and once he gets his own hogs, he gets ham and pork chops and all of that, and he says he’s living high on the hog, not the feet, but the ham,” Harris explained. “I think that the whole story about the inventiveness of the story and the way that it talks about the creativity, albeit sometimes clandestine, of African Americans is what has allowed some/many/not as many as I would like to think of us, to live high on the hog and many of us to live higher on the hog than our ancestors do.”
Since the Black experience has never been monolithic, Satterfield expressed the necessity of using platforms like High on the Hog to share our narratives.
“There’s plenty of Black folks in our history who lived a life that was high on the hog and many who continue to do so,” he said. “So, I think part of it, in the telling of this particular throughline of our narratives and our stories, which is to say that in this context, we are speaking high on the hog as more of an aspirational idiom.”
He concluded, “I think that we do try to tell the story of our people in a way that shows what we were trying to get and what it was like and also sometimes how it felt and what it looked like when food has been that other thing for us, which is a companion, a hug, the place of solace and strength.”
When is 'High on the Hog' back on Netflix?
Season 2 of High on the Hog returns to Netflix this Wednesday.