On a plate. In the oven. On display. In our stomachs.
For every place that an ingredient can end up, there are many stories to tell about how it got there. Most of them are highly debatable and many of them hard to prove. Just like most of history, as we currently understand it, culinary history has been salted with bias, stuffed with ego, and marinated in colonizing dreams. Void of oral histories and the lost stories of those who suffered the brutalities of imperialism, much of what we have been told about spices, fruits, vegetables, cures, smokes, and other ingredients in our pantries is rightfully up for review and revision.
Food history is in the middle of a much-needed revolution. Writers, chefs, and food historians like Jessica B. Harris, Thérèse Nelson, Laura Shapiro, Psyche A. Williams-Forson, Michele Elizabeth Lee, Michael W. Twitty, Soleil Ho, Judith Carney, Elizabeth Pérez, Tracye McQuirter, and many others are challenging, researching, and expanding the narrative. These diverse voices and stories are leading us to an evolved understanding of what is on our plates and how it got there.
However, there is still a lot of work to do.
Our pantry leaves a lot of room for the work that must be done. Here you will find one or two shared understandings about each ingredient, a commonly known use or benefit, and a comment section where we invite you to add to the story. Even though a great deal of effort was put into writing the descriptions, none of the information in the pantry is definitive. It is all fluid and evolving.
We hope that you will use the pantry as a starting point for your own research and discovery about the ingredients in your recipes. When you find an interesting tidbit, please comment on the ingredient and provide your source to help others on the journey. Like any good recipe, this pantry will be defined by the people who use it. So, tag an ingredient and tell us what you have learned about each entry.