24 July 2016
Here’s a copy of the letter I wrote, which was picked up and printed by the editor of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch on 23-July-2016. I’ve sent hard-copy to select Mayors and Chiefs of Police in advance of August 9th 2016. Interestingly, it’s the Police Chiefs who are writing me back…
Re: #Black&BlueBBQ #BBQ #Cooked
When Black Lives Matter activists scheduled a protest in Wichita, the police responded by inviting them to a cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs. The menu should have featured BBQ.
BBQ is a uniquely American food, and also, our most democratic food. Furthermore, it occupies center plate in Missouri food culture, and pairs nicely with baseball, blues and beer.
The “Slow Food” movement from Italy proves beyond doubt that the world will beat a path to your door for nothing more than embracing a strong local food culture. Hamburgers represent corporate culture, while BBQ is more authentically American.
As a Clayton mom who frequents the Ferguson Farmers Market, I know that food matters, and the kitchen table is where my children are slowly but tenderly cooked into productive citizens.
But family is not enough if I want my children to enter a civilized society, so I also organize neighborhood potlucks in the street. This is where my influence ends.
I propose that Mayors and Police Chiefs appoint the necessary resources to host BBQ Festivals and National Night Out events, and use the fire of our times to roast some pigs. Yes jokes will be made; but food heals the community, while humor heals the heart and soul.
I know for a fact that many local restaurants are already eager to donate BBQ to the cause, and that moms and “church ladies” will be only too delighted to organize cole slaw, drinks and chairs. Half the tickets might be distributed by lottery, and the other half sold for fundraising purposes.
We have a unique opportunity to rewire a difficult situation into a celebration of American culture, and we should seize the moment while the eyes of the world are upon us.
As a mother, I know how much work it takes to cook up a community; I also know how hard it is to get everyone to the table, so I know it’s not an easy task or an easy ask. But unless we at least try, in one word from food writer Michael Pollan, I fear we might all be “Cooked”.
Jessica Hoagland of Clayton, Missouri
And, some interesting links:
Cookout vs. BBQ by The Root: The Root
This article talks about BBQ as a verb; in my eyes, it’s not so much a race thing as a culture thing, and by culture I mean corporate culture vs. food culture.
Original letter to editor: STL Today 23-July-2016 Letter to Editor
This is the short version of my letter, but proof that it was published.
Video of Wichita Cookout: All Lives Matter music video by Devon Bray
This is a video that an artist made of the Wichita Cookout, with music. Listen for the words BBQ, even though, the event wasn’t a BBQ per se.
News articles about the Wichita Cookout:
Saint Louis Police Launce Ice Cream Truck:
Ice Cream is not food; it’s a treat. But it’s a nice start, and the ice cream cone was invented in Saint Louis by an immigrant who ran out of cups & spoons at the World’s Fair, and turned to his neighbor, the waffle maker: 26-July-2016 STLToday Police Ice Cream Truck
About Slow Food: history & local chapters
I am fresh back from a trip to Piedmont, Italy, which is home to the Slow Food Movement. Slow Food began when McDonald’s tried to first put a restaurant in Rome in 1986. The Romans revolted, and in an uproar, said, basically, “No! We are Italian! We don’t do FAST food, we do SLOW food!” Slow Food doesn’t necessarily mean slow food, rather, it means locally grown food that is cooked with love and care. It was the birth of what we know as the farm to table movement. There are Slow Food Chapters all over the world, including one in Saint Louis. What surprised me, is that the Piedmont region was rather neglected after WWII, and the Slow Food movement has now made it one of the most desirable places to live in the world. We could do this in only 25 years in Saint Louis. People would come from all over the world to eat our BBQ, go to an American baseball game, and drink craft American beer.
Ferguson has one of the best governed farmers markets in Saint Louis, and one of the best organic farm schools in America, called EarthDance Farms. Ferguson is a nice little town, and I visit it often. The Ferguson situation taught me how to use Twitter, because what I was seeing on the news did not match what I was seeing with my very own eyes.
Cooked, by Michael Pollan:
You can find the history of BBQ and why we must sit down and eat together in order to be a civilized society in Michael Pollan’s book, below. The premise of the book is that we need to cook our food to unlock the calories, and we must sit down together and eat together to be a civilized society.
In short, the slaves were given the worst pieces of meat, and used spices to make the meat more savory. That’s called ingenuity. Also, during tobacco harvest time, it was all hands on deck, and the pigs were slowly roasted while the hands worked in the field. At the end of the long harvest, big plank tables were set up under the plantation trees, and everyone, black & white together, sat down to eat, in exhaustion. Later, during segregation, the blacks lined up at the white BBQ establishments, and the whites lined up at the windows of the black establishments, if that happened to be where the best BBQ was located. Technically, BBQ is not necessarily a slave thing, but a mix of Euro, Carribean, African, Southern, and Creole cooking.
Michael Pollan is a food writer widely credited for mobilizing the current food movement, including BBQ. By the way, Missouri has a lot of pig farms; it’s what we do.