“High on the Hog” examines the significance of classic Southern dishes


Stephani Bradley

Origins of food like neckbones and collard greens are traced back from Africa. These items are still served in the United States today.

Imagine this, it’s Thanksgiving dinner at your grandma‘s house. All kinds of dishes are on the table. Some are familiar, and others, less so. You see a “mess of greens,” cornbread and even sweet potatoes. But did you ever stop to think about the origin of these dishes?

That is the question posed by the 2021 Netflix series, “High On The Hog.” Based on a book by Jessica B. Harris, “High On The Hog” explores the origins of the Southern food traditions we have come to know and love.

As Harris and presenter Stephen Satterfield illustrate, Southern recipes that have since become common were brought over to the United States by enslaved African peoples.

The team behind the series visited various countries in the African diaspora to interview locals about their country’s food traditions. From trying oxtail soup to eating greens, the team gained firsthand knowledge of exactly where these dishes came from.

I found the series to be quite educational in that it opened my eyes to exactly how some of my favorite dishes came to be.

For example, fried chicken originated because the chicken was cheaper for enslaved peoples to obtain. Fried chicken was originally reserved for special occasions, but it eventually became commodified.

“High on the Hog” explored how, left with limited employment opportunities, food provided Black people with a chance for economic prosperity. Black people sold food, such as gas station sandwiches, fried chicken and pepper pots, as a means of survival.

“High on the Hog” will give viewers a newfound respect for soul food. I highly recommend this series for anyone interested in unraveling the cultural complexities of their favorite southern cooking.