Out of the Shadow of Aunt Jemima: the real black chefs who taught Americans to cook

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Never bought it, never will, because the first time I saw a bottle I assumed it would have a backstory like this.

I grew up eating Aunt Jemimas, and it never occurred to me she was a slave. I thought she just liked pancakes.


Never bought it, because fuck that fake shit when you can have real maple syrup.

(Although I loved the sicky-sweet flavored syrups at IHOP as a kid for some reason)


I assume you grew up in another country? :stuck_out_tongue:


As god as my witness, I begged my mom to get the syrup because I thought the bottle would talk to me. She never did. That and if I had the right kind of pitcher, so would the kool-aid man.


Well, she has updated her look a bit over the years. (Or to be more precise the people in marketing updated it for her.)


That’s Mrs. Butterworth, a similar advertising character. I’ve never been sure if Mrs. Butterworth is meant to be black, she’s almost exclusively depicted as an anthropomorphic bottle.


Robert Moss has been writing about the history of southern food over at Serious Eats for a while. hits in some of the same stuff:



OH crap - you’re right. I am sure there is joke in there somewhere…

We used Bisquick IIRC.


Disneyland had an Aunt Jemima Pancake House for years, and I’m pretty sure an actress dressed up as her and greeted the guests as they came in to eat.


If Americans knew how to cook, every edible cuisine wouldn’t be named for another nationality. Being shit chefs seems to be one of the English traditions with which Americans never quite dispensed.

But still, fuck slavery-themed awful syrup.



So Creole and Cajun food are named after nationalities? Not ethnic groups unique to the US? And New England cuisine is named after a non-us region of the US? And nothing you consider to be edible is not a direct, unaltered transplant from another country (discounting England)? And all aspects of US culture are derived exclusively from English culture? As opposed to any of the thousands of other ethnic groups extent in this country or involved in its establishment? And Native American cultures had no influence?

Food (like language, music and pretty much any aspect of culture) isn’t static. What you think of currently as American food, or English food, or whatever these un-defined other cuisines that are magically more edible are is not what some one from a century or more ago in those same places would think of as their cuisine. Neither do these things pop up from whole cloth uninfluenced by anything happening elsewhere. French food has serious influences and cross over with both German and Spanish foods. And even English food. Which is not surprising if you look at a map. Much of the french pastry and bread baking canon has its deep roots in Austria. Chinese cuisine isn’t a single cuisine. But dozens of them. Often with crossover and influences from the countries and cultural groups at its borders. Much Japanese food, including very old traditional dishes is derived from Chinese sources. And they have parallel traditions of uniquely Japanese food. As well as for European foods (temporal originated in Portugal!). And yes even American food.

Which is a fair bit of the point of the article. If you bothered to read it. Food. And in this case in particular Southern Food, is a result of cultural mixing. Varied influences from all of the people in a given cultural grouping. Black folks were largely denied credit for their influence on American food ways. Particularly when it came to Southern food. The racist mascots like Aunt Jemima were directly tied to the ways in which this was done.


I thought “Aunt Jemima” was my great, great grandmother Henrietta’s younger sister.

Jemima had a street named after her in what became Winnipeg, Manitoba, though it was later renamed. Unfortunate since Jemima had self-esteem issues.

When Henrietta married Reverend John Black, he got flack about “all those Blacks” in the front row at his church.

Of course, Henrietta and her siblings weren’t black. They were half-breed Okanagan-Scottish.

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In this she’s still an anthropomorphized bottle but the straight hair and face seem to imply ‘supposed to be a white person’ to me. I think she’s just supposed to be a ‘generic’ grandma/mom/pancake-maker and since white has been and kinda still is the assumed default in the U.S. that’s what they went with

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When I was a kid, “Aunt Jemima” was a brand of pancake mix; I don’t think the fake syrup came along until later. (And that was before I learned that making pancakes from scratch was just as easy as using mix, and tastes a lot better.)


Would like words.

Also, from my neck of the woods Papas Sould Food Kitchen is an institution.

Alice aint too bad either.


Thank. You.

If you can go to Honey Bears bbg in Phoenix and not be blown away, I have no words.

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They were imported from cultures in other countries, yes.

Obviously not. I said bad English cooking was. New England’s bland excuse for food is one such example.

Native Americans weren’t Americans before Europeans foisted that name on two continents. They’re another appropriated culture chewed up by unapologetic imperialists.

I’d call it cultural appropriation, but you say tomayto, I say tomahto.

Enslaved and genocided cultures didn’t “teach” Americans to cook, they were chewed up, their cultures rudely digested and the shithole of imperialism claimed credit for the ancient fruits of their heritages.


Uh, what? I generally quite respect your opinions, but you are talking out your poop chute on this one. Like, majorly.

You are not required to like American food, but slagging English and American cuisines as imperialist appropriation is… Well, insulting.