ROSWELL, Ga. — Clarissa Clifton spends her Saturdays in excess of a roaring hearth, stirring pots in historical attire. For the past five decades, she’s been a foodstuff historian at Smith Plantation, the place she volunteers 2 times a month to cook her specialty— historic Southern poverty food items.
“I cook all yr because this is my passion,” Clifton mentioned. “I like accomplishing this.”
Clifton, a Brookhaven resident, tactics open-fireside cooking, a strategy of making ready meals above an open hearth, with cooking pots suspended about the flame. The set up is uncomplicated, but the pots can deliver every thing from stews to biscuits.
It is Clifton’s chosen way to cook.
Clifton’s foods background began in South Ga, wherever she was born and lifted. She grew up viewing her spouse and children cook dinner common recipes and later arrived to like their significance.
“The place that I’m from is South Ga, it’s almost certainly why we’re so significant in Nigerian,” Clifton reported. “We possibly arrived in excess of really late in the slave trade.”
The foods she tends to make is classic, normally pulling from recipes from slaves and bad folks in the South. Significantly of it is familiar, though, as regular Black American cooking has risen in recognition – collard greens and shrimp and grits are recipes Clifton exclusively acknowledges.
On Dec. 17, Clifton ready a food of Hoppin’ John, whiskey ham and spiced cider. As she stirred the pot of Hoppin’ John, a dish of black-eyed peas, rice and pork, she thorough the record behind the rice.
“Rice is a single of the 1st items that slaves ended up brought about for,” Clifton stated.
The rice she works by using is Carolina Gold, a crop Clifton said was a huge thrust for slavery.
“It’s just one of individuals items that was a hard cash crop in advance of cotton took above,” Clifton mentioned. “After that, the only people who ongoing to mature the rice had been slaves and descendants of slaves.”
Clifton has often been passionate in this type of record. She’s intrigued in the Revolutionary War and has participated in quite a few reenactments and functions. At very first, though, she did not know food items background was an possibility.
The blend of her love for meals and record arrived when she watched a tv exhibit in the ’90s and noticed a visitor who referred to as herself a “food historian.”
“I was like, ‘Oh my God… that’s what I want to do,’” Clifton claimed.
That is when she started out operating at the Atlanta Heritage Middle. She’s considering that worked in Atlanta, Virginia and North Carolina, relocating with her day career in information technological innovation.
Clifton helps make it clear that her authentic enthusiasm is the volunteer function she does in open up-fireplace cooking. She hopes to retire from her profession before long and get on more cooking in her free of charge time.
Ahead of the onset of COVID-19, Clifton also taught open up-fireplace cooking classes, frequently instructing skilled chefs and foodstuff fans in foodstuff techniques they weren’t familiar with.
Clifton remembers instructing a chef her recipe for vinegar pie, a common Southern dessert with sugar, butter, vinegar. When the chef commenced cooking, he exclaimed “This is chess pie!”
Of program, Clifton reported she understood that. Chess pie is simply just another name for vinegar pie. The name sprung from a misunderstanding of “just pie” as “chess pie.”
Training is vital to Clifton’s passion for food record. As significantly as she loves cooking, she enjoys training individuals about the strategies and dishes. She also loves feeding folks the foods.
“When people today appear, they want to eat all the time, but we can’t feed the public, because I’m not a chef, I’m a prepare dinner,” Clifton stated.
When Clifton teaches lessons, persons can eat what they cook dinner, and possibly decide on up a new favourite recipe. They can also find out the record guiding foods they may possibly previously know.
The history Clifton teaches is complex. She’s volunteered at multiple plantations, places that employed to property slaves. Even with that hard past, Clifton sees the websites as precious destinations.
“Only about 10 % of the individuals were being truly plantation owners,” Clifton explained.
In its place of concentrating on the plantation house owners, Clifton points her spotlights towards most of the population on a plantation: enslaved persons. For Clifton, the internet sites are a essential element of Black record.
It’s why Clifton options to host a cooking party for Black History Month she phone calls “A Style of Struggle,” in which she will be a part of a chef to make traditional meals like hen ft, to emphasize the fare that arrived out of difficult periods.
She also spotlights poverty cooking and emphasizes that quite a few lousy White folks were mistreated as perfectly.
“The 90 per cent of weak Whites and slaves were being basically feeding on the same thing,” Clifton claimed.
For Clifton, remembering the record is critical to bringing traditional food stuff into the modern working day, and undertaking it authentically — not the stylish, highly-priced Southern meals.
“We’ve been taught to be ashamed of our food items for so extended that we do not like to push our things by means of,” Clifton said. “That’s how you conclusion up with folks acquiring collard greens for $75.”