SUSTENANCE. Food is an incredibly significant part of Black communities. Heritage, traditions, and memories are preserved through dishes and recipes passed on through history within communities and families. Food brings people together.
To celebrate the launch of the OBSIDIAN virtual concept house, Amber Mayfield, the founder, and editor-in-chief of the Black-owned food and home magazine While Entertaining will chat with chefs and food professionals from across the country to explore the role of food in their homes. This week, Amber chats with Aaron Hutcherson, a food writer and recipe developer for Voraciously at The Washington Post. Aaron was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute and runs the popular blog TheHungryHutch.com. This week, we sit down with Aaron to discuss the role of food in his home.
Q. How would you describe the type of food you like to cook? What is your inspiration for cooking?
A. I'm from Chicago originally, with soul and comfort food making up the majority of my diet growing up. As such, that is usually at the base of the type of dishes that I like to create. But on top of that, I'm a curious cook with professional training, so I love experimenting with different ingredients and flavors. I get inspiration from walking through the grocery store or farmers' market and seeing what ingredients jump out at me. I also love trying new-to-me dishes at restaurants to get exposed to different foods.
Q. Tell us about Sunday dinner at your house.
A. Sunday is the one day of the week when I can almost always be found in the kitchen. Because I have the time, Sundays are when I tend to make dishes that require a bit of time to cook. Sometimes it's something that I can throw in a pot and walk away from for a couple of hours, like a pot of pinto beans with ham hock, or a batch of neck bones braised low and slow. Other times, it's something that requires a bit of babysitting and a watchful eye, like fried chicken.
Q. What family traditions around food have been most important for you to continue?
A. I have very strong, fond memories attached to making and eating sweet potato pies with my family each Thanksgiving. Given I wasn't able to visit with them this past year because of the pandemic, I made sure to still make one for my small apartment celebration of the holiday. A slice of pie connects me to my family even when I'm hundreds of miles away.
Q. Tell us about a dish that you and your family enjoy the most?
A. One of my favorite recipes that I've developed over the years is for my coconut layer cake. My dad has a big sweet tooth and enjoys all types of desserts, but I'd guess coconut cake is in his top five. (It's one of my favorites, too.) On one of my visits home, I was able to make it for him and I remember him being ecstatic about the taste, so it was great to get his seal of approval. The cake itself is full of coconut flavor because there's coconut milk in the batter along with shredded coconut. The cake is coated in a cream cheese frosting for a slight tang and then covered with toasted coconut for some nice visual and textural contrast.
Photo Credit: Clay Williams