|Photo of Archibald John Motley, Jr.’s [Tille's] “Chicken Shack,” [in Harlem], Still Pictures in the National Archives, College Park, Maryland. Click to enlarge the image, it's rich in detail!|
I am going to take some time out from my stories on Easter and dedicate the coming days to Women’s History Month. What will follow are stories of black women, who like me, love food, and many of them like me, have southern roots. Most of them you have never heard before before I found their stories intriguing. Some became food professionals in the North working as live-in domestics for white families, caterers, restaurateurs, and bakers. Each one brought their food traditions with them and their stories map episodes of southern migration to Harlem and Westchester County. Some of them are my older, southern-born relatives who adapted and mixed their culinary traditions as they moved North and passed them on to our family’s northern-born younger generations. Tomorrow I will start with story of Tillie Eripp who at age eighteen, this poor African-American woman migrated alone from Tampa, Florida, to Philadelphia. Writer Sarah Chavez interviewed her for the WPA Federal Writers’ Project America Eats, which was never published. New York City’s WPA unit called their study “Feeding the City.” In it, Chavez and other writers gathered insightful records about Depression-era food history.