Between-The-Scenes: Recipes from African-American Elders


On A Chef’s Life, Vivian quite often yields to the knowledge held by community home cooks. We are proud to uphold the wisdom of African American elders in our own community like Miss Lillie Hardy and her mother, Miss Mary Vaughn, whose personal stories of the south and its food include both hardship and happiness. In celebration of Black History Month, we pay homage to the inspiration and recipes shared by African American cooks who’ve been featured on A CHEF’S LIFE over the past four seasons.

Miss Mildred Cannon’s Potato Salad

Folks are finicky about their potato salad and every tiny nuance makes each person’s batch its own creation. In “One Potato, New Potato,” Miss Mildred Cannon shared her potato salad recipe and the little-known, secret ingredient that makes it special: Durkee’s Famous Sauce.

Sausage Stewed Cabbages (Inspired by Miss Lillie)

Miss Lillie has a knack for stewing veggies. Her stewed cabbage with its unique blend of crunchy, sweet flavor make for a one-pot meal. Miss Lillie prepares her stewed cabbage in a way familiar to many descendants of African American grandmothers–cut into bite-size pieces and simmered in fatty liquid with hunks of pork sausage. The flavor, like the fellowship it inspires, is simply heartwarming.

Hoppin’ John (Inspired by Scott Barton)

Hoppin’ John is quite simply a combination of peas and rice often served on New Year’s Day as a promise of prosperity for the approaching year. According to Scott Barton, “the idea of peas and rice is one of these survival diaspora foods. We see it in the Caribbean, we see it in West Africa, we see it in Gambia, so it’s something that comes with the Africans to the new world, to the Americas.”

Miss Daisy Small’s Clam Hash (courtesy of Frank Lee)

Frank Lee’s clam hash which was featured in part 1 of “Gone Clamming” from season three is adapted from Miss Daisy Small’s version of the dish which he recalls as “humble and delicious.” Miss Daisy, an equally humble African-American home cook from the Gullah Islands off the South Carolina coast, would’ve served a bowl of stone ground grits alongside her hash, so we suggest you do the same.