“We weep for a bird’s cry but not for a fish’s blood. Blessed are those with a voice.” – Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell: Innocence)
Growing older is slowly and surely reinforcing my belief that most people are almost always disappointing. We only need to look at the world’s most recent and ongoing events to see how selfish, avoidably ignorant, and hypocritical people can be.
Before COVID people had less time to stay at home and watch shows, but my foodie social media friends and acquaintances would almost always be up to date on Netflix food-related shows such as Chef’s Tableand Ugly Delicious. After a few days of release, there would always be some sort of proclamation from them being inspired to try new cuisine and new dishes. But when High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America came out on Netflix in mid 2021, there was barely any chatter about it.
High on the Hog was adapted from the book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jessica B. Harris. I haven’t read the book, but the show – starring Stephen Satterfield – takes us to parts of Africa and parts of America. He talks to various people to show us the history of African food, the people behind them and how it has affected American cuisine.
The show was really informative and, needless to say, mouth-watering. It left me feeling intrigued since it reinforced the belief that a lot of food history, much like alcohol history, is still left unsaid. An example would be: due to issues such as racism, certain people have taken credit for people of color’s achievements. Just look at how Brown Forman’s Jack Daniel’s “forgot” about Nearest Green.
Another factor that made me feel more for High on the Hog was having had Creole cuisine in New Orleans. Ever since that trip, I’ve been curious and open about anything related to African food. Despite being affordable and simple, there’s just so much flavor in it. I’ve never been to Africa, nor have I had any straight-up African food. Aside from Creole, the closest cuisine I’ve had to African cuisine is Jamaican food cooked locally by a Jamaican residing in Manila.
In case you’re not familiar with Jamaican cuisine: it’s mostly an amalgamation of African, Chinese, Indian and European influences. The cuisine was born and developed mostly as a result of African slaves, Indians under indentured servitude, and Chinese laborers bringing their own different styles of cooking to Jamaica.
As I understand it, Creole is a mix of European, African, Caribbean, and Native-American cuisine. If you’ve been to New Orleans, just walking around the French Quarter is like going around Europe. The architecture on the buildings can change just from moving around the different streets.
High on the Hog came out on Netflix in May of 2021. At this time, the Philippines’ vaccination rate was still only ramping up. More people were slowly starting to go out then, but plenty of establishments remained closed. At most, restaurants were only allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
So, a lot of people I’m connected with on social media still had time to regularly post about them re-watching food shows. According to them, it was to reminisce, research, learn about what other cuisines or dishes they could try and to, somewhat, cope with their being unable to travel. Yet, because Africa and African food isn’t as sexy as the popular cuisines being featured in shows like Chef’s Table, they didn’t bother watching High on the Hog. What happened to researching and learning? What happened to looking for something new? Did their curiosity turn into hypocrisy while being on the internet?
This paying more attention to popular cuisines is no different in spirits. Consumers flock to whatever spirits category or brand is trending. I often hear and something like this in bars, or read posts in online whisky groups: “I’m a curious person looking to try new brands of whisky and other booze. What’s good to try?” It’s easy to ask this when whisky is the talk of the town. Yet, when that person is offered a Mezcal or a rum, they’re almost always not interested.
Did your curiosity vanish like the angel’s share? We all know that drinking any mass-produced brand is sure to validate whoever is drinking it. Validation is something craved by everyone. Having been into cocktails since 2012 I can still recall the time when so few people wanted to drink gin, but when it started to get popular again, you see people acting like they’ve been drinking gin all their life.
You may be thinking that people have not paid attention to High on a Hog because they don’t have something to make them feel connected to Africa. My retort would be: did you need to eat Scottish food to start drinking Scotch? Most likely not. Locally, what we know about Scotland is thanks to Braveheart and certain Scottish stereotypes shown in the media. In case the Scotch Egg is currently in your mind: it’s not even Scottish. It was invented in England. There’s even a theory that Indians created it.
I’m guessing spirits that mainly come from the cultures of people of color will need to win tons of awards and start pricing ridiculously to get the praise their alcohol and food deserve. After all, awards are like championships in sports: no matter how good you are, it’s hard to be recognized as a great without a ring. But when this happens, the quality will have already been muddled by marketing and the money men. Because one of the main concerns of whisk(e)y drinkers about rum is the lack or dubiousness of an age statement, I present to thee a 29 year old Enmore Guyanese rum bottled by Compagnie Des Indes (CDI).
Compagnie Des Indes Guyana Enmore 29 Year Rum – Review
Cask # Gen 2. Bottle 19 out of 237. Distilled Nov 1988. Bottled Mar 2018. 48% ABV. €246.28 on Zeewijck.
Color: Pale ale.
On the nose: Peppery and funky. The funk is upfront. I think it’s made out of cashew nuts, licorice, sourdough, sugarcane juice, leather, Cognac rancio, nutmeg and fermented Chinese black bean paste. In-between and at the end of this funkiness are subtle flashes of jackfruit, green apples, and fermented bananas.
In the mouth: Not as funky and as complex as on the nose. I get light to medium tastes of Cognac rancio, leather, sugarcane juice, licorice, nutmeg and anise. In between are flavors of fermented bananas that quickly come and go. Accompanied by the bananas are also flashes of vanilla, apples, and sarsaparilla… but I only taste them once.
I love the nose on this. It’s powerful, complex, and well-integrated. Sadly, it doesn’t translate as well in the mouth. The funk and complexity is lessened.
When talking about funk, Guyanese rum tends to be overshadowed by other funkier rum such as ones from Jamaica and Fiji. I’m not an expert on Guyanese rum history, but with the way the Diamond Distillery makes various marques of rum, it can be assumed Guyana was not known to make really funky rum, although they have been making their own high ester rum in really small amounts over the years. Despite lacking in the funk department, they make up for it with the variety of marques and stills they have. The various rum created here are unique.
With the flavors I get from this, I’m guessing this is from the Enmore distillery, which used to house the Versaille wooden single retort still. There’s a separate Enmore still which produces a less funky and more molasses and fruity tasting rum. The Enmore and the Versaille still are both now in Guyana’s only remaining distillery, Diamond Distillery.
This gets plus points for being affordable despite its age. Single malts with this age statement would cost at least twice as much these days.
I love this article…not for the rum review ( which is good by the way, but nothing new from you). Instead for the first few paragraphs on how you drew attention to social biases, and then weave those into the review. Great job.
Hi PB, thanks for the kind words. Good to know that I got what I was aiming for. Cheers
Thanks for the information on High on the Hog. I think I will reactivate my Netflix account to watch. I gave up watching cooking shows on Netflix after streaming one in which every episode circled back to René Redzepi, no matter the subject: barbeque, Mexican food, etc. I have no doubt that Redzepi is brilliant, but all the Netflix cooking shows seemed to be too focused on personalities rather than food cultures. It seemed like the show was mostly interested in celebrating the appropriation of other cultures rather than understanding them.
I feel like I have repeated a lot of what you said in a different way, but wanted to express my appreciation for your reviews. Just shared a Foursquare rum and a Rey Campero mezcal with some friends this weekend. Both were excellent.
Hi, Zenetallo. I’m glad your friends enjoyed Foursquare and Rey Campero (which I’m also a fan of). It’s also nice to know more people enjoying lesser known spirits and brands.
I don’t like in a market with a lot of African influence. So High on the Hog was so mind opening for me. I also agree that food shows tend to focus on certain personalities rather than a culture. Perhaps that focus on how Africa affected the US was what appealed to me the most (aside from the food).