New podcast 'Setting the Table' offers 'crash course' in Black food history

Todd A. Price
Southern Kitchen
Food writer Debra Freeman is the host of "Setting the Table," a new podcast about African American food in the South from Whetstone media.

Debra Freeman calls "Setting the Table," her new podcast debuting March 8, a "crash course" in African American culinary history.

"I hope every episode will uncover something that someone didn't know or cause someone to think in a different way," she said.

Freeman, a food writer based in Virginia, will tackle subjects that cover every aspect of Black food in the South and beyond. Episodes of "Setting the Table," will look at how The Great Migration carried Southern food across America, why so few farms are owned by African Americans, food and civil rights and the future of Black food.

"It's a conversation with people who are deeply invested and deeply passionate about these topics," Freeman said.

"Setting the Table" is part of the new Whetstone Radio Collective, a collection of food podcasts from Whetstone Media. Other podcasts in the series include "Bad Table Manners" about foodways in India, "Climate Cuisine" on how similar crops are used around the world, and "El Corredor del Néctar," a Spanish-language show about mezcal.

The new podcast "Setting the Table" explores Black food culture across the South.

"We are investing in creating food programming that is more global in nature," said Stephen Satterfield, founder of Whetstone Media. Satterfield was also the host of the recent Netflix series "High on the Hog."

More:Netflix’s 'High on the Hog' celebrates African American food

Satterfield sees the podcasts as an extension of Whetstone Magazine, a lushly photographed quarterly food magazine he started in 2016.

"When we came out five years ago, we committed to uncompromising storytelling, but with uncompromising aesthetics, too," he said. "In the media, stories that were usually the most important had the least impressive packaging."

Satterfield raised more than $100,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to launch the Whetstone Radio Collective. In February, Whetstone announced that it received $1.3 million dollars in funding to grow its podcasts and other food publications.

Stephen Satterfield in 'High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America.'

Satterfield had been a fan of Freeman's writing for many years. He saw her work on Black food as an ideal match for Whetstone's collection of podcasts.

"She's long been someone that I've wanted to hear more from," he said. "How do we build a platform that will amplify the work that she was already doing?"

For Freeman, working for a Black-owned media company means telling stories the way she wants. Too often, she said, non-Black editors have removed details from her work because they do not recognize the cultural importance of those elements.

"There is no one way to tell a story of a culture," she said. "What's powerful is when people are enabled to tell those stories from their perspective."

More:New book 'Black Food' explores a 'beautiful, complicated and amazing history'

Freeman also believes podcasts, as a genre, provide a connection that is stronger than writing.

"There's a little bit of intimacy that you don't necessarily get with the written word," she said. "Being able to hear the inflection or those vocal cues is really compelling."

The 10-episode "Setting the Table" is available on all major podcasting platforms. See www.whetstonemagazine.com/radio for more information.

News tips? Story ideas? Questions? Call reporter Todd Price at 504-421-1542 or email him at taprice@gannett.com. Sign up for The American South newsletter. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.