Two Pittsburgh institutions are teaming up to show the importance of food in African American slavery.
The Heinz History Center, along with Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, is hosting “Beyond the Big House Kitchen: A Culinary History of American Slavery,” a demonstration showcasing how African American slaves were able to cook and eat on the run.
Sarah Rooney, community programs manager for the Heinz History Center, said the exhibit will show the everyday struggles of freedom seekers.
“Not only were they on the run and fighting disease and things like that,” Rooney said, “but they had to worry about how to eat and how to take care of themselves. It’s something so basic that we take for granted, but obviously none of these things were available to people who didn’t have a home.”
Michael Twitty, a nationally renowned culinary historian, will prepare meals using crops, tools and materials utilized by slaves more than 150 years ago.
Twitty will cook chicken dishes, hoe cakes and a stew, which visitors will be able to sample, according to Rooney.
Twitty has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” and has taught at more than 100 organizations across the nation, including the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg and the Library of Congress.
Rooney believes food is one of the best ways to learn about a different time and culture.
“You think about all of the trials and tribulations that freedom seekers went through, and just eating was a tough enough task on its own,” Rooney said.
The “Beyond the Big House Kitchen” event is part of the history center’s “From Slavery to Freedom” exhibition, which highlights the history of the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad and the impact of 19th century activism for civil and human rights in Pittsburgh.
The event goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at Meadowcroft and is free with the price of admission.