The Origins of Stephen Satterfield

The host of Netflix's 'High on the Hog' talks about storytelling, erasure, and wine

Unless you’ve been introduced to the beautifully done, brilliantly assembled Whetstone magazine — check it out — or you’re a person who’s sought out diverse storytelling in food, especially the less-told stories, you may not have heard of Stephen Satterfield until recently. Last month, however, Netflix launched “High on the Hog,” a four-part series of which Satterfield is the host, and which tells some of the stories of the African diaspora through food. It’s groundbreaking television, and Satterfield’s empathy, emotion, professionalism, and intelligence combine to make him an ideal central figure of a series that’s not only well done but important. You’ll find out more about Satterfield on this week’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman. Some excerpts — and the recipes featured from the episode — are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! 

Two more things before we get to Satterfield: We featured a question from a listener on this episode who was diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently completely changed her diet, going more plant-based. She wanted to know what other foods she should be thinking about to boost healing. A friend of Kate’s, who is a medical oncologist specializing in treating breast cancer at Sloan Kettering, recommended some of the evidence-based summaries — regarding alcohol, diet, supplements, etc. — from the American Cancer Society, so we’re linking to that here. (And please, remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD with all your food-related questions.)

And two — this week’s members’ only Bittman Project conversation is an open forum to ask Mark anything from 3 to 5 p.m. EST.

Thank you, as always.

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On the power of story and media:

“We can't really talk to white people about slavery, because of the discomfort that it makes them feel. And yet if we talk about slavery in the context of the migration of food and people — even though the migration was forced — it still allows us to get to a place where, in society, we could otherwise never reach. And that's the power of story. Story shifts culture and shapes culture — and therefore has the capacity to change culture. And that's what we're trying to do.” (Note: You can contribute to Satterfield’s crowdfunding campaign, which will make his rich new podcasting company a reality, here.)

On the importance of origin:

“I've given myself the silly moniker of ‘origin forager,’ and what that means is [at Whetstone] we see value — immense value — in recovering, pursuing, a place of origin. Because the place of origin is necessary to know and understand as a means of celebrating, as a means of building empathy, as a means of being able to move forward. Because if you don't understand where something is derived from, then you don't really have a proper framework to be able to know what's best, to be able to have a fully formed and informed opinion. And a lot of that distortion around these stories about where things have come from or originated have been purposefully suppressed and obfuscated — by who? Whoever gets to write history, of course. The ruling class.”

On working in the luxury food and wine industry:

“My experience was one of confusion, in that I really knew that I loved wine and wanted to pursue it as a vocation, but the communities that I was a part of in wine were very, very homogenous, not only racially, but really just culturally, not a lot of diversity in lived experience. And with wine being an obviously very agriculturally based product, and everything that goes along with land, I really couldn't see my involvement as a sommelier long-term and it really bummed me out.”


Asparagus and Sesame Salad

Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes

This is one of the simplest, quickest, and best asparagus recipes I know. Thinner asparagus works better here, but be careful not to overcook the spears. Trim a bunch of asparagus, then cut the spears on the bias. Cook them quickly in a bit of vegetable oil for a minute or two, or until they turn bright green (you can also blanch them quickly in boiling water). Toss the cooked spears with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, a drizzle of soy sauce, and a sprinkle of sugar if you like; garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

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Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express


Snap Peas with Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

This is a nice little recipe for snap peas, which are in season right now, but later in the summer, you can do this with green beans like haricot vert — anything else that’s crisp. Cook about a pound of snap peas in salted, boiling water until crisp-tender, about a minute. Drain and shock in ice water to stop the cooking. Soften a minced shallot in olive oil until it’s translucent, for another minute or so. Add a handful of chopped walnuts and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add the peas, salt, and pepper and warm through. Serve with blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled on top.

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Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express


Asparagus or Pea Dip

Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes

This ode to spring and summer was inspired by everyone’s favorite: guacamole. Make sure the vegetables are super tender before you mash them.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked and chopped asparagus, or thawed frozen or fresh cooked peas

  • 1 ripe tomato, cored and chopped (optional)

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion or shallot

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste

  • 1 seeded, minced serrano or jalapeño chile, or cayenne to taste (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) chile powder or any mild pure chile powder, to taste

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste

  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions

1. Mash (or pulse in the food processor) the asparagus (or peas). Stir in the tomato (if you’re using it), onion, garlic, chile (if you’re using it), chile powder, salt and pepper to taste, and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

2. Garnish with cilantro and serve. Or cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so there is no air trapped between the dip and the wrap, and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before garnishing and serving.

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Recipe from How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition