Real Black History; Our Story

Real Black history; How Slaves were really fed. Don’t look like soul food

People or slaves eating from a trough

Someone would ring a bell when it was time for American slave children to eat and they would all come running to the hog trough on Southern plantations before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Pigs eating in a trough

The children would be given either an empty oyster shell or a piece of a slate shingle that fell from a roof to scoop out their dinner of a bland mush of ground corn and flour mixed into boiling water called ash cake.

“It doesn’t taste like anything,” said culinary historian Michael William Twitty, who gave a cooking demonstration Saturday at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village on how slaves provided food for their families.

The scene around the hog trough, Twitty said, appeared as if the children were living in a Third World country eating from the same container used to feed pigs.

“The children were running around without shoes. Their hands were not washed. There was no clean water to begin with,” said Twitty at the presentation that attracted an audience of more than 50 people at the Avella-area tourist destination.

To give the mush flavor, slaves drizzled as much molasses as possible on the cakes, or, if they were lucky, they would top it with a piece of fatback. When we think about slaves we tend to think they were eating soul food and creating the dishes we eat to this day but they were actually at a trough like pigs.

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