Recipes by Chef Wanda Blake | Photos by Dana Plucinski
Many in the set of mostly elderly Southern Black farmers that Dr. Gail Myers interviewed for Rhythms of the Land mentioned growing greens, peas, okra, and cabbage. If they raised poultry, it was often guinea fowl, an ancient species that originated in Sub-Saharan Africa. In order to help viewers better visualize the meals those farmers would have enjoyed around their tables, Myers turned to Wanda Blake, an Oakland chef and proprietor of Wanda’s Cooking, whose family came out of Southern farming roots. Blake and Myers had participated in many panel discussions on Black food and farming, and Blake recalls meals her grandfather and great uncles described while telling stories of life on the farm.
To bring those stories into the present and illuminate the westward migration of Southern food and farming traditions, Myers and Blake reached out to farmer Will Scott, who grows many of the same Black heritage foods on his farm near Fresno. His customers come from miles around to the farm and to his booth at Oakland’s Freedom Farmers’ Market in order to find the taste of home they recall from their parents’ and grandparents’ cooking. With Mr. Scott’s peas and okra and a guinea hen from Saba Live Poultry in Oakland, Chef Wanda put together a representative meal for a scene in Rhythms of the Land and again for the photos and recipes here.
While preparing the dishes, Blake says she was thinking about the life of the farmer: “Being in obedience to the land … how farmers must have this endurance and the faith that it will all come together. Farming is a commitment to the land and to the land cycle. Here in Oakland, I have a lemon and an orange tree, but they’re pretty sustainable on their own … I’m not getting up at 5am and working in the heat to maintain their growth. I have a high regard for farmers and what they bring us.”
Read our interview with Dr. Gail Myers on the making of Rhythms of the Land. Click on the menu items below for the recipes.
Wanda’s Sweet (or Hot) Pepper Chowchow
Order from wandascooking.com or make your own,
but please don’t skip it!
Sweet Potato Pie
Recipe in our Fall 2022 issue