Kelley Fanto Deetz, an adjunct sociology professor, will give a Banner Lecture at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture this week as part of Black History Month.
The talk, titled “Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine,” will take place Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Richmond-area museum.
Deetz will discuss how enslaved plantation cooks were literally “bound to the fire,” living and working in the sweltering and fetid conditions of plantation house kitchens. The cooks drew upon skills and ingredients they brought with them from their African homelands to create complex, labor-intensive dishes, such as oyster stew, gumbo, etc. The highly skilled cooks had a significant impact on the nation’s culinary and hospitality traditions, even as they were forced to prepare food for their oppressors.