One of the greatest treasures of Earth is the naturalness of her culinary. The true essence of food, and how (in its natural state) it works for restoration, nourishment, and healing. Every natural vegetable and fruit has a purpose in strengthening the make-up and process of our bodies. It elevates our energy to the highest heights. Food is a gift from the heavens and the Earth. And, one of the best ways to learn of the naturalness and healing power of food, is at the doorsteps of our parent’s and grandparent’s kitchen table.
Like all Black American families, the Howell family comes from women and men, who worked the land. Who labored in U.S. soiling. And, so that energy is within our very existence. That peculiar energy of creating in unknown lands. Making familiarity, out of what was foreign.
Toiling until the land was no longer ignorant of our existence. In our enslavement, and after on, we developed a natural alignment to U.S. lands. And so Black American culinary told, and continues to tell, the stories of our her/history and legacy in the United States of America.
My Grandmother, Katie Howell, worked in the lands of Mississippi. When she left, her culinary stories came with her. She fed, and feeds, her children and grandchildren their culinary lineage; ensuring that they will continue to pass on their familial and cultural culinary heritage.
My Grandfather, James Howell, had too, worked as a chef. And cooking for his children and grandchildren, he contributes to the cultural memory of his family and lineage. As a little girl, I remember meeting two of Grandpa’s White American colleagues. They mentioned of cooking with Grandpa, as fellow chefs. That he was one of the best chefs in that spacing.
When I remember this moment, and moments of Grandpa cooking, I envision Grandpa doing more than simply cooking. In many ways, he was using his culinary skills, as a source of healing. Providing healing to those, blessed enough to be fed by him. Carrying the memories of his mother, Essie Mae Metcalf-Howell, and her cooking, with him. One has to envision the naturalism of US food, back then. Grown from the Earth. Void of preservatives, chemicals, or faux experimentation. Our food was a reflection of our natural toiling in the Earth.
To see Grandma and Grandpa cooking in the kitchen is a wonder! Their gift is connected to the younger generations. A way of showing and performing the culinary heritage of our family and people. Elders of our family, of any family, are the gatekeepers of legacy and her/history. For Black America, their presence calls in a continued re-birth, re-newal, and restoration of our people. And, when they cook, they are keeping alive (and passing down) the culinary legacy of our heritage. Just like our music, our food has also been a continued marker in our her/history in the United States of America.
Returning back to childhood’s of memories lane, going to the blueberry farm was one of those experiences in our training of honoring the Earth. When we were little, Grandpa took Big Bro’ and I to the blueberry fields in Michigan. There, we picked blueberries. Filling our buckets, with jumbo-sized blueberries. Carefully selected and crafted by Big Bro’ and me. Taking them home to be used as toppings and sweetness for pancakes. What Grandpa, James Howell, had done was continue a tradition from my Mother’s generation. By taking Jamison and I out to the blueberry farm, Grandpa was re-enacting the tales of when Mom and my Uncles connected with nature, through blueberries.
Mom. Uncle Craig. Uncle Ricky. Uncle Gib. Uncle Tim. went to the blueberry fields, as kids. Bonding with that very Earth of their familial travel Her/History.
Grandma and Grandpa emphasized, and instilled, the values of honesty and hard work in their children. As a way to earn pocket money for family travels, my Mom and Uncles picked blueberries from the blueberry farms of Michigan. Through these activities, we were re-connected with our American, cultural and family roots to this land. For Grandpa, its Arkansas. For Grandma, its Mississippi. Both states serve as foundations for travel her/history and tales of one sector of the Howell family legacy. All for another tale-ing. So, just stay tuned!
Food and land, go hand-in-hand. In Black American culture, many hands worked the land. And, our culinary her/history provided us with the opportunity to transform nourishment, into our own hands. Working with what was given to us. What was denied to us. What was enforced upon us. Returning to the darkness of Blackness, because that became our marker of existence. Crafting in the unknown, in order to re-create reality-a culinary reality, at that. Its why we have sayings, such as #BlackGirlMagic! Black Americans are the living, breathing replicas, who performed a peculiar essence of blackness. One that is essentially and naturally. . .Black American.
So, as Grandpa has nourished the bodies and Souls of others, he too, shall be nourished. He spent years crafting to strangers, and performing the healing power of food. He instilled in his children and grandchildren the knowledge of land, and its connection to Earth’s jewels and culinary heaven. And so, that shall be given back to him. Body, health, mind, and Spirit shall be healed and re-stored. Returning to the kitchen, in continuing to pass down the culinary stories to the younger generations. Time, action, nourishment, and natural healing will be the primary resources.
Its not a coincidence that Grandpa and Grandma Howell specialized in the artistry of food. Its not by “luck” that they have continued (and continue) these culinary traditions and knowledge on their children and grandchildren. Through the naturalness, and the medicinal properties of the Earth, food and nature will be the gift of rejuvenation for my Grandpa James Howell and Grandma Katie Howell.
From Mississippi to Arkansas, up to Michigan again, the chefs wield up a culinary. . . LOVE.