In her book Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, Kelley Fanto Deetz draws upon archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to present a study of the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond. She reveals how these men and women were literally "bound to the fire" as they lived and worked in the sweltering and often fetid conditions of plantation house kitchens. These highly skilled cooks drew upon skills and ingredients brought with them from their African homelands to create complex, labor-intensive dishes such as oyster stew, gumbo, and fried fish. However, their white owners overwhelmingly received the credit for their creations.
Deetz's talk focuses on enslaved cooks at Virginia plantations including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon. She restores these forgotten figures to their rightful place in American and Southern history.
Dr. Kelly Fanto Deetz is Director of Education, Programming and Visitor Engagement at Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia. She was a professional chef for several years, and is a contributor to The Routledge History of Food and Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement. Her work has appeared in National Geographic History.
This event is in partnership with the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor.