Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz

Bound to the Fire

How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
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“One of the Best Books about Food of 2017”
– The Smithsonian

In grocery store aisles and kitchens across the country, smiling images of “Aunt Jemima” and other historical and fictional black cooks can be found on various food products and in advertising. Although these images are sanitized and romanticized in American popular culture, they represent the untold stories of enslaved men and women who had a significant impact on the nation’s culinary and hospitality traditions even as they were forced to prepare food for their oppressors.

“Bound to the Fire makes
Top 10 Narrative Food & Drink Books of 2017”

Kelley Fanto Deetz draws upon archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to present a nuanced study of the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond. She reveals how these men and women were literally “bound to the fire” as they lived and worked in the sweltering and often fetid conditions of plantation house kitchens. These highly skilled cooks drew upon skills and ingredients brought with them from their African homelands to create complex, labor-intensive dishes such as oyster stew, gumbo, and fried fish. However, their white owners overwhelmingly received the credit for their creations.

Click to view C-Span Interview with Dr. Kelley Deetz

A Few Reviews

Bound to the Fire not only uncovers their rich and complex stories and illuminates their role in plantation culture, but it celebrates their living legacy with the recipes that they created and passed down to future generations.

Booking & Contact

Just one Interaction with Dr. Kelley Deetz and you will immediately understand her commitment to being a voice for racial justice. Her engaging style and commanding presence leads individuals, organizations and communities to higher levels of consciousness and action. To book Dr. Deetz for lectures, workshops, and other engagements please use the contact form provided.