Food by the Book
One of the overarching goals of Black History Month is to teach us not only about historical facts, but about the indomitable human spirit and its courage in the face of intolerable conditions. It is remarkable that we have personal accounts authored by individuals who suffered through the most soul-crushing circumstances of slavery before the Civil War, but through perseverance and undaunted fortitude endured one day at a time and lived to tell about it. There exists in these individual stories a wisdom that can teach us how to retain our humanity in the face of even the most inhumane treatment.
Frederick Douglass’s story published in 1845 is perhaps the most well-known memoir of this kind, outselling both “Moby Dick” and “Walden” at the time. His description of his early life and experiences on plantations in Maryland and the cruel treatment of slaves under the overseer, Mr. Severe, documents how a great man is made by his reaction to his circumstances. It endures today as a classic that is commonly studied in American schools.
Many self-authored slave narratives that were very popular in their day, however, did not endure into our time. One such is “Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northrup, Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841 and Rescued in 1853 from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River in Louisiana,” now set to win an Oscar as a major motion picture. Northrup’s account, dedicated to Harriet Beacher Stowe, tells of this birth as a freeman to good parents in New York, his marriage to Anne and their pursuit of better jobs to provide a good life for their three children. His early life could be the story of every man until three strangers enticed him to seek employment some distance from his home. Spending the night in Washington, D.C., a city ironically mired in the slave economy, was the unknowing turn in his being drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a Louisiana plantation owner when he was 30 years old. He remained in this condition for 12 years until his rescue by members of the Northrup family, the original masters of his father’s people.
Northrup’s account of his enslavement is at once the juxtaposition of great friendship and kindness found in slavery countered by immense cruelty and horrid conditions. Because of the age of his published memoir, it exists in the public domain and can be read online for free. Go to http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/northup/northup.html to read this and other primary source documents compiled by the University of North Carolina’s Documenting the American South project.
America’s great melting pot has given us a wonderful culinary wealth representing the diversity of our country. One example is Edward Lee, owner of bar-b-que emporium, 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky. Raised in New York by a family of Korean immigrants, Lee’s new cookbook “Smoke & Pickles” mingles the best techniques of his Korean upbringing with flavors of the American South. His pulled pork in special bar-b-que sauce has a friendly burn that will ignite and delight your taste buds.
Edwin Lee’s Pulled Pork
This sauce is made from all dark ingredients that combine to create a distinct and very delicious palate pleaser. The original calls for 2 tablespoons black bean paste, but I omitted it here.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup dark coffee
1/2 cup cola
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pork shoulder roast (5 pounds total), skin on
Make the BBQ sauce: In a Dutch oven, melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and raisins. Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown and caramelize on the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding the bourbon, coffee, and cola. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half.
Add the ketchup, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and black-bean paste, and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, allspice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool for about 15 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a blender, add the lime juice and sesame oil, and purée on high until you achieve a smooth, thick sauce. Adjust the seasonings to the way you like it. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate; bring to room temperature when ready to use. (The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.)
Make the rub: Combine all the rub ingredients in a bowl. Put the pork shoulder in a large baking dish or other container and pat a thick layer of the rub over the entire surface. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to give the pork a quick cure. The smoked paprika really brings out the flavor.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap the shoulder loosely in aluminum foil and set in a roasting pan. Pour a little water, about 1/2 cup, into the foil package. Roast for 2 1/2 hours. Check the meat. Does it pull away from the shoulder-blade bone when you poke it with a fork? It is done. Carefully transfer the pork to a cutting board. It is easier to pull the meat while it is still hot. Use two forks: one to hold the shoulder in place and the other to shred the meat, using a downward motion. Moisten the meat with just enough BBQ sauce to flavor it but not so much that it overpowers the pork. Transfer to a platter and serve hot on buns.
Caprial Pense’s Dad’s Baked Beans
1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 cup dried black beans
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 smoked ham hocks
2 tablespoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the pinto and black beans in a large stockpot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Drain the beans and place them in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, ham hocks, ginger, chipotle pepper, dry mustard, cumin, brown sugar, molasses, and soy sauce, and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the beans in a Dutch oven or roasting pan, cover, and bake for 4 hours, or until thick and flavorful. Serve warm. Source: www.culinate.com.