A Taste Of Matthew Raiford’s Heritage

The last food book we featured was not a cookbook, but had plenty of food for thought. Thanks to the Kim Severson (again, after a couple years of our not seeing her work) for bringing Matthew Raiford, his family heritage, his farm and his cookbook to our attention in her article: A High-Summer Feast to Forge Connections in the Deep South. And if time is short, click through just for the exceptional photography:

Rinne Allen for The New York Times

Matthew Raiford swore he’d never return to his family farm in coastal Georgia. But in breaking that vow, he found a sense of community worth celebrating with a lavish spread.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — It’s not a stretch to say there may have never been a party for a cookbook like the one Matthew Raiford threw on his family farm a few weeks ago.

Rinne Allen for The New York Times

The book’s title is “Bress ‘n’ Nyam” — “bless and eat” in the English-based Creole spoken by the Gullah Geechee people who live along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida. Their ancestors were captured in West Africa and enslaved. Nowhere else in America has the cultural line from Africa been better preserved. (Mr. Raiford’s people call themselves freshwater Geechee, which means they are from the mainland of coastal Georgia. Saltwater Geechees are from the barrier islands.)

Mr. Raiford’s farm is on land that his great-great-great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard began buying after he was emancipated. Mr. Gillard eventually amassed 450 acres, land that Mr. Raiford believes had probably belonged to white plantation owners who either abandoned it or sold it cheap, fearing what would happen when they lost their power during Reconstruction. Over the years, the property was passed down, divided and sold. Only 42 acres remain, called Gilliard Farms.

When he was 18, Mr. Raiford left the farm and vowed he would never live there again. He married and had children. He joined the Army. Eventually, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, N.Y. Eleven years ago, at a family reunion, his grandmother handed the deed to Mr. Raiford and his sister, Althea, and told them they needed to get back to farming.

“I knew it would be hard coming back,” he writes in the cookbook. “Not just the farming, but also as a Black man in the South who cooks in a kitchen and works the land. That’s a lot of past to reckon with.”…

Read the whole article here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s