Every time black people think white people will examine their privilege, breaking the heavy chains of racial denial, which hurts them a lot more than it hurts anyone else, blacks receive a resounding “hell-to-the-naw!” Case in point, the “classy” and widely distributed food and beverage magazine, Food & Wine, thought it’s great idea to pay homage to the black maids of Jim Crow Mississippi, whose portrayal in this summer’s feel-good film, “The Help,” inspires the magazine to dedicate a spread to Southern cuisine, which is central to the “The Help’s” plot.
Forgetting to mention that most of the recipes blacks ingeniously came up with to feed their families — because of, but not limited to, depressed wages and seperate-but-not-equal education — were not their first option but the most resourceful option, Food & Wine wanted to remind folks how blatant white supremacy benefitted American cuisine and how serving the benevolent, patriarchal households of the Deep South gave blacks a sense of purpose and pride in their lives:
[F]ried chicken for the film [was] based on a recipe described in the novel, prepared by a maid named Minny, who’s revered for her talent in the kitchen. The secret: Crisco. (Minny praises Crisco thusly: “Ain’t just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum? That’s right, Crisco. Spread this on a baby’s bottom, you won’t even know what diaper rash is. Shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband’s scaly feet. And after all that it will still fry your chicken.”)
Don’t we just love the refreshing ignorance of blacks in the South! On the contrary, if the fictional Minny, played by the uber-talented Octavia Spencer, could find that many uses for Crisco — which was probably more than the scientists who came up with that artery-clogging substance — maybe, since “The Help” was, by the way, a fictional story, the writers could have gave Minny’s oldest daughter a slim chance to attend college instead of giving only one woman agency in the film, the lead character “Skeeter” portrayed by the talented Emma Stone. Maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t see mainstream media perpetuating Michelle Bachman-esque rewritings of America’s apartheid past.
We’ll leave some more of the heavy lifting to Jezebel writer, Irin Camon, who observes the “The Help’s” racial harmony narrative among publications around the nation:
This is no isolated phenomenon. The Dallas Morning News’ headline for a subscriber-only story is “The Help Will Make You Hungry.” HSN’s product line of Southern-nostalgia home goods and kitchen implements also includes a demure clothing line designed by Lela Rose. What, no crisp maid’s uniform?
Southern Living, having a home team advantage on Old South nostalgia, pairs its interview with Kathryn Stockett with recipes featuring copy like, “Every lady worth her white gloves knows that bridge club day is all about the gossip. Make a batch of chicken salad to serve your friends during a mid-afternoon gathering.” Or just have a woman you refuse to let use your bathroom do it, like old times.
My personal favorite: “If you close your eyes and wish really hard, Minny might just show up at your bedside with a heapin’ helping of this flaky, delicious chicken pot pie.” If you’d close your eyes and wished really hard, those meddling Northerners and homegrown Civil Rights agitators might never have ruined the good old days!
And they even have their own version of shit pie. Nothing tastes sweeter than a gauzy haze over a brutal history.