The pivotal role Black Virginians have played influencing American cuisine

Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-01 16:22:01-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The impact African Americans made and continue to make on the United States is immeasurable.

Debra Freeman uses her podcast "Setting the Table" to shed light on the impact African Americans have made on the foods and drink enjoyed today.

"You can come here and literally taste history," Freeman said about a recent visit to Original Ronnie's BBQ in eastern Henrico County.

Ronnie Logan, 70, is the heart, soul, and pitmaster at the restaurant that bears his name.

"You're in the Heart of Varina with the best barbeque in the state of Virginia," Logan said about his family business off New Market Road. "We do ribs, pulled pork, beef pork, brisket, smoked wings, and smoked chicken."

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Related: Follow your heart to some of Virginia’s best BBQ

They also offer sides like collard greens, baked beans, and mac and cheese.

Raised by his grandparents, not far from where he mans the pit, Logan comes from a long line of cooks.

"I love to see people eat it and smile," Logan said. "Everything prepared with love here."

Love of food and love of family keep Ronnie moving. Ronnie, his siblings, and children all work at the restaurant.

"It's a few generations that have been here," he said. "It’s kind of funny, my daddy cooked bbq in the same spot."

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And it's that passing down of food knowledge that interests Freeman and fuels her stories chronicling the African American food experience.

"Since the beginning of the country, Black hands have been an essential part of food," she said. "A lot of the Southern foods we think about started in Virginia."

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Deb Freeman

Related: American barbecue was born in Virginia. And this podcast host is telling the world all about it.

She said African Americans were big influences in foods like biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and barbecue.

"Any of these dishes that are iconic Southern dishes, they were either created by or perfected by African-Americans," she said. "This food that has endured 400 years later, we still eat, we still enjoy. That's due to the creativity, intelligence, and ingenuity of African Americans."

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