NBC Black History Month Menu Not Offensive

Yesterday (Feb. 4, 2010) the commissary at NBC’s 30 Rockafeller Center in New York produced a special menu to celebrate Black History Month. The menu has come under some fire and I have absolutely no idea why.

NBC Menu

Musician Questlove of the Legendary Roots Crew (the house band for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) took a pic of the menu board and posted it to his Twitter account with the caption, “Hmm HR?”  A few hours later the menu was changed to a grilled chicken Po ‘Boy.

Ridiculous!

The purpose of Black History Month, as I understand it, is to celebrate the contributions of the African-American community to American society.  It is the oldest and longest official ethnic observance in the nation having started in the 1920’s as Negro History Week.

During the now month-long remembrance we are reminded of the scientific contributions of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.  We revel in the musical genius of everyone from Louis Armstrong to Chuck Berry to Kathleen Battle.  We lose ourselves in the poetic prose of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou.  And most importantly we memorialize those who gave so much to earn equality for African-Americans, people like W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King Jr.

It has long been my insistence that the crux of American Cuisine (the food that defines our nation) hails from the Deep South.  The legacy of Southern cooking is the foundation of American food.  The African-American community, more than any other, is responsible for shaping the recipes that define our national palate.  Fried chicken, greens, cornbread, black-eyed peas, etc. are examples of the spirit of a people who made the most out of what little they were given.  And we are all richer for their creativity.

We have set aside the month of February to celebrate the academic and artistic contributions of the African-American community.  So why is celebrating their gastronomic accomplishments considered racist?  Absurd.  If we are to follow this same line of thinking then every Hip Hop rhyme, every blood transfusion and every Moonwalk is also racist.

I do not blame Questlove for this pointless controversy.  Even he realized the menu was no big deal Twitting, “i think i need a twitter break. i done started something. and now i must put out fire.”  The menu was chosen by Chef Leslie Calhoun, an African-American, and is a menu she has been working to get put on the rotation specifically for Black History Month because she feels these are recipes everyone enjoys.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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