09 Feb A Look At Our Past- An Ode To Black History Month
By Lauren Paylor
Oral History is a method of collecting, preserving, and interpreting the voices and memories of people, participants and communities in past events. It has become an international movement in historical research and attempts to gather different perspectives on accounts/ events that have taken place in the past. When we consider history and how it is taught in educational school systems, there are significant, innovative and impactful events that are often left out or untold. When we consider celebrating history and the gaps throughout it which make it appear incomplete or inauthentic it stresses the importance of conducting research to continue telling the stories of the past, the need for oral history and ensuring that we are recording our current history.
There have been some wonderful members of the African American community that have played significant and pivotal roles in the history of Food and Beverages. If we simply start by considering the fact that when they were brought over from Africa and enslaved, they cooked and made beverages for their slave owners it puts things into perspective. The dishes they prepared and the drinks that they served were heavily influenced by their cultures. Depending on what part of the United States you were in during these accounts you’d see things such as hot cakes, fried chicken, okra, stewed meat and beans in many of the dishes. Black folks have been in the room a long time, but were also great at being invisible.
A woman that many should remember is Emeline Jones. According to the 1860 Census for Baltimore, an Emeline Johns appears as a free slave. We assume that is our Emeline Jones. Emeline Jones started as a house servant and developed a reputation amongst many for her delicious cuisines and her extravagant multicourse meals. Making her way to the New York area, she settled in Manhattan and built a reputable catering business.
She was admired by many and even offered jobs from Presidents Arthur and Cleveland who sampled her meals when she worked at clubs in New York in the late 1800s. It is stated that they had both offered her a big salary to be the Chef at White House, but she turned down their offers. Jones was famous for her terrapin stews. Before emancipation, turtles were abundant along the Atlantic coast and were considered a slave food. They were easy to catch and rich in protein. Her story would have gone unknown had it not been documented in newspaper articles and obituaries which celebrated her life. Her obituary even mentions a number of New York chefs who had apprenticed under her.
The story of Nathan Green is another remarkable account which has proven to become popular with the development of the brand Uncle Nearest. Nathan “Nearest “ Green, also known as Tennessee Whiskey’s Godfather, is the first recorded African American distiller. Believed to be born in the early 1800s in Maryland, Nearest was a husband and father to nine children. He loved to entertain and it is believed that he even played the fiddle.
Nathan Green was distilling whiskey for a man named Dan Call. Call introduced Nathan to Jack and insisted that he teach Jack how to distill whiskey and familiarize him with something called Charcoal Filtration. Charcoal filtration is the process of filtering the newly distilled spirit through charcoal prior to barreling, the process strips the whiskey of much of its harsh flavorings and creates a smoother and easy drinking spirit. This method is specific to Tennessee whiskey. After years of dedication to the Jack Daniels brand, Nathan Green retired wealthy and hopefully happy. His three sons, George, Edde and Eli, continued his legacy’s work by continuing to work for Jack Daniels distillery after his retirement.
Nathan Green died in 1890 and his burial place is unknown. A memorial was built for him across from Jack Daniels resting place to honor his legacy and their friendship. Today, Uncle Nearest Whiskey, honors Nathan’s legacy with their whiskey’s. Each bottle is named with a year of significance to honor his innovations and accomplishments in the world of whiskey. His great-great-great granddaughter has been appointed to the position of Master Blender for the organization. She curated the Uncle Nearest 1884 small batch whiskey and continues to honor her great-great-great grandfather’s legacy.
These two stories are my favorite to share in remembrance of those who have paved the way for future generations. During a time where rights were limited and vocations were often assigned, we have the opportunity to experience moments where passion/ talent and drive created pivotal moments in history. When we consider legacies and how we can continue to honor them, I truly believe it starts with recognizing those who came before us and honoring those who are currently doing remarkable work and making a difference. Continue to share these stories and to bring light to the people making and creating space today
- 1.5 Sticks Unsalted Butter
- 1.5 Quarts Turtle Meat
- 1 Large Onion, finely diced
- 1 Stalk Celery, finely diced
- Green Onions, sliced thin for garnish
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Fresh Bay Leaves
- ¼ cup Tomato Paste
- 1 Medium Tomato, diced
- 2-3 Cups Turtle Stock, as needed
- Cayenne Pepper, to taste
- 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 Tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- 1 Small Lemon, Juiced (2 Tbsp) and Grated
- ½ cup Cooking Sherry
- 3 dashes Kensington Bitters
Instructions: Bring turtle meat, bay leaves, and 6 cups water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender. Strain and keep stock.
Heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, celery, onions, and tomatoes and for 4 minutes. Add paste, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook until the aroma becomes stronger. Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add chopped turtle meat. Season with salt and pepper, as necessary. Add bitters, thyme, sherry, eggs, and lemon (juice and grate). Garnish with green onion.
1.50 oz | 45 mL Tennessee Whiskey
0.75 oz | 20 mL Lemon Juice
0.75 oz | 20 mL Simple Syrup (2:1)
2 dashes Bittered Sling Lem Marrakech Bitters
Do a short shake with ingredients and strain into a highball glass with ice.
Top with Fever-Tree club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge