Food, Food Artisans

African American Dinner Theater

Last night’s 11th Annual African American Foodways Dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse was a wonderfully intimate dinner that gave a whole new meaning to the term “dinner theater.

This year’s feast was based the recipes and foods common to Western Michigan in the middle of the 1800s, and Roadhouse Executive Chef Alex Young created a wonderful multi-course meal evoking this period. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, the meal was served family-style. The meal began with Sweet Potato Pone Bread and Vermont Crackers served with tomato jam, followed by fried hominy and pickled green beans, and then fresh rabbit in a rich milk gravy served with flapjacks. The next round brought big bowls of Hoppin’ John and pickled Lima beans with corn. Platters of beautifully fried chicken followed. To top it all off, diners enjoyed slices of lovely squash pies made especially for the dinner by Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

After the meal, guests were entertained this year with a special performance by Dr. Von H. Washington, a professor in Western Michigan University’s Department of Theatre, and Toronto-based mezzo-soprano (and former Zingerman’s employee), Ali Garrison. The pair presented a dramatic scene written especially for the dinner; a theatrical reading based on their research for Dr. Washington’s play, “In Search of Giants.” The play comes to the Arthur Miller Theatre on the University of Michigan’s North Campus Thursday, January 28th.

In the scene presented, Washington and Garrison play two Abolitionists, Henry Bibb and Pamela Thomas, meeting in January 1845 at the Underground Railroad Station in Schoolcraft, Michigan near Kalamazoo for a kitchen table conversation about food, freedom and human interaction. Ali Garrison is a direct descendent of Dr. Nathan Thomas, noted Michigan abolitionist whose home was a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad.

This year’s dinner was a wonderful tribute to the people of another place and time, whose contributions to the abolitionist movement through the Railroad and other activities helped bring thousands to new lives of freedom.













































See you soon!