Notes on Bound to the Fire By Kelley F. Deetz

(Deetz, Kelley F. Bound to the Fire. University Press of Kentucky, 2017)

  • Intro(pg1-14)
    • Aunt Jemima- romanticized version of enslaved cooks
    • Black cooks are ingrained into the food market
    • Plantation cooks are at the core of Virginian cuisine
    • Black cooks in marketing reinforces the stereotype
    • Okra, peppers and yams are food inspirations from Africa
    • Gumbo and fried fish are from the African kitchen 
    • African cooks influences southern and elite cuisine and tastes by bringing African flavors into the plantation kitchens
    • Enslaved cooks mostly worked on large plantations and were specialized 
  • Chapter 1
    • Enslaved cooks were constantly cooking and even lived above the kitchen (15)
    • Enslaved cooks were likely worked to an early grave (16)
    • The white plantation mistresses might provide menus and maybe recipes but the enslaved cook would do all of the cooking and therefore were the cornerstone of Virginia cuisine throughout the plantation era (16)
    • Kitchens were separated from the main house to give a sense of otherness between the enslaved and their masters (20)
    • After the seventeenth century meals and enslaved cooks became more important as the elites started to become known for their hospitality (24)
    • The domestic slaves were “invisible” (30)
  • Chapter 2:
    • The enslaved culinary team produced massive quantities of high quality food (44)
    • Plantation meals with French inspired cuisine (46)
    • Headcheese: animal head sitting for a week in a lye-based mixture, stirred occasionally, skimmed and mold removed; jellied loaf of meat from the head of an animal, delicacy (46)
    • Beginning of colonial era, English inspired food (47)
    • Cooking pots and pans made of cast iron, very heavy (49)
    • Enslaved cooks were trained by the mistress or by the head cook, also taught to read and basic math (49)
    • Bread, fish a la creme, and halibut were common staples (51)
    • Lots of oysters in recipes (52)
    • Brunswick stew- Virginia staple (54)
    • Intestines for sausages were sometimes cleaned out in the kitchen (54)
    • The whole food chain was located on the plantation with the butchers providing meat and the fieldhands providing produce (54)
    • Enslaved cooks also did lots of baking (55)
    • Common desserts include risen cake (spiced cake with raisins, sort of bread like), rich cake (similar flavors to the risen cake but more butter) (55-56)
    • Enslaved cooks brought liquor making skills from West Africa (56)
    • Strawberry wine; flavoured cakes and jellies, dewberry wine had medicinal properties (57)
    • Due to thee importance of the enslaved cooks they were able to make some concessions on labor (58)
    • But enslaved cooks could still be brutally abused (62-63)
  • Chapter 3:
    • Mt Vernon’s Old Betty and Hanson late eighteenth century (notable recipes: chicken broth(cure for cholera), biscuits thin and breakfast) (74)
    • Chef Hercules, cook from 1786-1797, chef to the US 1st prez, first “celebrity chef”(75-76) flees to freedom in 1797 (86)
    • Hemmings, cook for TJ, trained in France, died 1801 of alcoholism (90)
    • Most slaves were Igbo and had cooking and poison knowledge (93)
  • Chapter 4:
    • Eighteenth century when VA hospitality flourished and “food became cuisine” (100)
    • Typical dinners were 8-10 dishes, pastry course and fruit and nut course (101)
    • Bread
    • Most plantation mistresses had a motherly but complex power dynamic with the enslaved cooks (111)
    • 4 daily meals: breakfast(daybreak to mid-morning), dinner(2-3pm), tea, and supper(8-9pm) (112-113)
    • French influence began late 1700’s and integrated by the 1800’s (115)
      • Food was used as a prop and lots was made but only some was consumed (115)
    • Breakfast of tea, coffee, bread, and ham (116)
    • French courses, 1st meats, sauces, greens, sweet potatoes, hominy, 2nd desserts, preserves, and dried fruit (116)
    • Okra and tomatoes, gumbo, pepper pot; African recipes that made there way into the Virginian cuisine and cookbooks (122)
    • Black eyed peas, millet, okra, and yams brought from Africa (123)
    • Igbo’s used okra as a thickener, bringing this knowledge of cooking from Africa (123)
    • Palm wine, fried food, and stews were West African staples (123)
    • “Foodways exemplify the cultural importance of food as a way to maintain connections to one’s ancestors and to a land and peoples left behind.” (124)
    • Enslaved cooks created southern cuisine as a blend of West African ingredients and techniques and European methods  and ingredients (125)
  • This book was about the important role of enslaved cooks and how they shaped the cuisine in Virginia and the south in general. And of the prevalence of the stereotypical black cook in food packages and how the idea of a black cook gives a sense of familiarity whilst also holding onto the distance which parallels to the past where slaves were kept separate from the white plantation owners. It gave an important look at the colonial history of food, and stated the idea that cuisine is not just food but the cooks who make the food and continue the tradition, which emphasizes the authors point that the enslaved cooks built Virginian cuisine because they were Virginian cuisine.

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