(music) (music) (music) This is not no Jamaican tune, this here a Gullah tune.
Food, storytelling, music.
Music, I have a celebration of culture and good people.
Hi, I'm Dr. Howard Conyers with another episode of Nourish.
I'm here in my home state of South Carolina visiting Joseph Fields Farms to talk to my friend, my "Bubba," Gullah Chef BJ Dennis, to learn about the Gullah Geechee food tradition Hey, it's good to see you, my brother.
Hey thick Bro, What's goin' on, Bubba?
I'm here because I want my friends and the rest of the country to know about the Gullah Geechee culture and there's no other person I could find better than Chef BJ Dennis.
Boy, already talk like that, cher.
Oh, yeah, man, Yeah, it's the culture, right?
It's the culture it's the basis of a lot of African-American culture here in whole country.
We're having a "homecoming," combining Gullah Geechee food traditions and old-school pit barbecue, drawing together friends and family from all over the country.
But, before we get to the celebration we got to prepare the meal and talk food culture so what's on the menu for the day tonight well we will have obviously having a beautiful pit barbecue sauce wild and pig off the bottom figs some say our direct descendant of the I vehicle in Spain got a Jones Island lamb or sheep but I think it's a lamb I think of the layout me doing some red rice over soup I'll do some fresh cucumber tomatoes and some muscadine muskan I've been a good okay that's gonna in Greek vinegars okay that's that's a classic and we will have some just some straight-up fruit man nice peaches watermelon strawberry chili dog watermelon tea and some ginger tea so Peter help explain to me whether the Gullah Geechee culture Gullah Geechee culture for the Gullah cultures some people say we held more about african isms than any other african-american culture in the country Gullah Geechee culture is centered mostly in the coastal region of South Carolina and we're enslaved Africans working on rice plantations formed a unique cultural identity and food ways like why do you think it was here in the sea hours where it would just kind of remain really kind of pure without any kind of English influences because we were isolated just us probably a little more than maybe 50 60 years ago you couldn't get off this island without a boat look you can go right back there probably once at a hundred yards and put down a put down a trap catch crab mullet back there one black bass running you got the water right here right seafood is big but no Low Country meal is complete without rice and not just any rice one of those things that you know we're a rice culture but in the old days you know rice was typically eating maybe once a week because when you really rooting on rice so I'm sad and you will clean your eyes for Sunday's dinner rice was introduced to the American colonies in the mid 1600s by the mid 1700s enslaved West Africans brought to the Coastal Carolina region introduced the complex agricultural knowledge needed to grow the crop on a large scale by the end of the 18th century South Carolina was the largest rice producer in America yeah I realize who grew that who picked that knowledge before they came over knowledge of that was a science it was also astronomy cuz you had to study the moon's at I didn't understand how to tie for the fields and we were brought here essence were brought here because he had that knowledge one of the main dishes of the Gullah cuisine is red rice explain a little about the red rice so people who understand what's the origin of Ray Rice I say ray rice is the daughter of just law which is the West African race but a lot of elders also tell me that when you study at mediate ray rice a lot of type of fish and the Senegalese national justice chapel Jim Jefferson so I was told no this is actually the daughter of tribal Jim but I think ray rice looks more on a licensure law but that's a whole but so one preparation for rare rice is made from sauteed rice baked in a buttery seasoned tomato broth then mixed with vegetables and sausage or seafood rand rice even here it varies it varies because people say I want my red rice sticky I want my remnants a little more dr o my grades are separate i want green separated i don't want a bunch of meat in mind but the sauce is in it you know it depends on the cook if you might want to a crab meeting that some people want to or credit sometimes it's all about the vibe you know let's check on this fire doing wheels make sure we got everything set up what else we need to get set up for this we're also Pitt barbecuing for the event the way my father taught me to do it we dug a pit and use things we found on the farm pipe for the rack fence wire and roof and Tim for the top saying with the burn barrel send their blocks metal wire and roofing ten we had Joseph fields farm his family McFarlane for generations they had this land since I believe 1850 was started across the street he is one of the only certified organic farmers in the area the Linnaean share the Gullah culture here is deep I mean if this route it would it very very deep here he's also my my cousin to marriage so also family family yes why we getting ready for tonight's meal what color dishes are we snacking on this is a cultural addition almost similar to what I wasn't gum buddies I'm gonna Gumbel's the herbs but all the same family of dishes you know greens and also cooked down for a good while and I got some local crab sweet potato turkey neck and potatoes in there but this is all that's the lineage of the West African diaspora in the West any somebody might say well that's called a loop you know it looks like gumbo see herbs and in New Orleans I think the assets used to cook what was available another low country staple grits with industrial farming and in modernization you know we got into the quick grits some people you forgot probably don't even know how to cook real dress anymore cuz you just can't sit there for five minutes and voila these take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook you know grits are usually the backbone to a lot of things stew dishes like smothered shrimp crab and gravy where we gonna do fry fish today and some lovely lovely a little bit of butter in those grits and make a nice and lush you know I think food it kind of kind of bridges that gap because we was so separated the fools kind of bringing us bridging those gaps ready to go bringing it back together I decided to ask musician and BJ's neighbor Kendra joy about rice to help explain other aspects of Gullah culture like the language access is needed a way to communicate and so we came up with the language of Gullah and that's what we have to do people in Charleston or the Gullah Geechee culture have a first language and it's not English the Gullah language itself is very unique but the dialect we still have in like the low country so we may not necessarily speak the traditional vela language but we still have the dialect so that's why a lot of people think that we are from the islands because we have that thick dialect local handmade sweetgrass baskets are also woven into the culture when ancestors came over from West Africa they were making these type of different things that will help us to be able to do our work a little bit smoothly even the rhythm of what's known as a low country clap because essential to Gullah Geechee family and church gathering that came from once again West African rhythms give me a popular song where that may be seen here at we we hear a lot so okay the come-come by a song and so you hear a lot of people who saying koo kumba yeah but y'all know that's not the song so that's not how it goes and so it's who come by yeah so come by yeah my lord come by yeah which means come on back come by come by here Lord come by yeah my lord kumbaya kumbaya my lord kumbaya kumbaya my lord kumbaya Oh Lord and Vega Oh Lord come there yeah oh look I'm the I come by God so that's how you do that it's just really really important that we keep those times because it just keeps us connected we shared good food good times good laughs and then once again you end up leaving refreshed you like that's part of also my thing is like you know I got what color school learned all this stuff but there's nothing better than the culture that I grew up in and when I started asking questions that was better than any culinary school it was so much that we still must learning so much that was lost that you had to ask I mean whilst watching you do this how were your father here who was a original you know yeah we talked about doing this I want to see something a little bit different well I want y'all to see how when I was when I was a child what barbecue look like I want to thank you all for coming out came down here for her graduation the family's important and we do stuff like this back home like barbecue is a family thing but their mashup would be Jay and rain the PD in the low country together like this we thought it was very appropriate to do it here in Charleston there's a lot of people out here and I'd be remiss not to thank my wife and her my family for coming out here coming down to Charleston spending a little bit of time I live in New Orleans so just we had to spend time my family is important it's a lot of other people I could thank but I want to lead my name's off and I will let it go computer ready to eat if you have any other Gullah Geechee family recipes or stories share below and please subscribe to nourish I want to try to see like how rustic this is I want a shot when y'all see me I'll go eat it Rodney Scott barbecue or bees crackling they got nice fast equipment but I want y'all to see like these are pipes that came off this farm this program is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting