Author Celebrates Gullah Roots With A Generous Spread

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BRUNWICK, Ga. — It is no exaggeration to say that there may never have been a party before. cookbook Like Matthew Raiford threw at the family farm a few weeks ago.

The name of the book “Bress ‘n’ Nyam” – “bless and eat” in English spoken Creole Gullah Geechee people Inhabitants of the Carolinas, Georgia, and the northern Florida coast. Their descendants were captured and enslaved in West Africa. Nowhere else in the Americas is the cultural line from Africa better preserved. (Mr. Raiford’s men call themselves freshwater Geechee, which means they are from the coast of mainland Georgia. Saltwater Geeche are from the barrier islands.)

Mr Raiford’s farm is on land that his great-great-great-grandfather, Jupiter Gilliard, started buying after he was liberated. Mr. Gillard eventually collected 450 acres of land which Mr. Raiford believed likely belonged to white plantation owners who feared what would happen if they lost their power during the Reconstruction, which he either abandoned or sold cheaply. Over the years, the property has been transferred, divided and sold. only 42 acres left Gilliard Farms.

At the age of 18, Mr. Raiford left the farm and swore he would never live there again. He got married and had children. He joined the army. He finally graduated from university. Culinary Institute of AmericaEleven years ago, at a family gathering in Hyde Park, NY, her grandmother gave the deed to Mr. Raiford and his sister Althea, telling them they should go back to farming.

“I knew it would be hard to come back,” she writes in her cookbook. “Not just farming, but as a Black man in the South who cooks in the kitchen and tills the land. That’s a lot of history to take into account.”

For perspective, consider this point: Ahmaud Arbery chased and shot dead by two white men “It’s all 10 minutes away,” said Mr Raiford as he passed through a Brunswick neighborhood in 2020. “People are like a new New South,” he said. “Are the people who were there when I was a kid still out there? So it’s not the New South.” But it’s his home and now he’s buried forever.

For the book party, Mr. Raiford and his new wife, Tia LaNise Raiford, invited an eclectic group of about 30 farmers, family and friends from the Deep South to connect and celebrate. The couple first met at culinary school when they were in their 20s, then reconnected while working on a project recently. WorldDance Organic farm school in Mo, Ferguson. They got married in May.

The duo combined their food and agricultural businesses into one company. Strong Roots 9It is named after the $9 that Jupiter Gilliard paid in property taxes in 1870. ZazouMs. Raiford, an herbal tea company, started in Philadelphia, where she lived until she moved to the farm. It uses a lot of hibiscus, which grows well in Georgia and sows turmeric and ginger for fall harvest.

Throwing a good dinner party in this corner of Georgia during the high summer months is no small feat. When the guests began to arrive, the temperature reached 96 degrees. The moisture hung in the air like a blanket. There were errors of the sort few book party planners had ever seen.

But there were other pressing issues as well, such as what everyone should eat.

Mr. Raiford describes Gullah Geechee’s cooking as an alchemy of “Native American fires, Spanish conquest, Caribbean and West African mastery.” It’s also about who you know.

Raifords was lucky. Friends Iron Shrimp Company He had just pulled some of the last sweet, white Georgia shrimp of the season in Brunswick. When Mr. Raiford first came to the farm, he marinated them with rosemary from two large bushes he had planted. There were succulent rattlesnake watermelons from Calvin Waye (top, left), pickled edible flowers and small cucumbers from a family friend and farmer’s market down the road. The couple bought several kilos of stone fruit. Georgia Peach World, a product wizard stands on Interstate 95. Hibiscus for tea (photo below, below) came from their own farm.

Mr. Raiford built a grill station out of cinder blocks and subway racks. New York chef Ben Lee, who sweats on the grill most of the day, ran the kitchen for a time at A Voce Madison in Manhattan and worked in Philadelphia. Marc Vetri, a chef Mrs. Raiford also once worked.

Mr. Lee (bottom right, capped) was a longtime student of Southern cuisine, but had just met Raifords in Philadelphia. Mr Raiford invited him to the party. Arrived and got to work right away. “Matthew’s ‘build’ the entire model,” said Mr. Lee, “and that’s what this farm personifies.”

Piles of fruit, chicken with lobster, eggplant and okra fell in flames. On the table was a large plate of red Gullah rice, and for dessert, grilled peaches and plums topped with sweet teff pudding.

The chickens did not go to the grill until the guests arrived. The party lasted almost five hours. There was plenty of time for everyone to get to know each other. That’s what Mr Raiford wanted.

“The book is about society,” he said. “It’s about getting paid and figuring out what the community looks like from here.”

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