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Open Access Publications from the University of California

When Her Thousand Chimneys Smoked: Virginia's Enslaved Cooks and Their Kitchens

  • Author(s): Deetz, Kelley
  • Advisor(s): Taylor, Ula Y
  • et al.

This dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of Virginia's enslaved plantation cooks that seeks to advance our understanding of their contributions to Virginia's rich cultural traditions. By examining the archaeological record, material culture, cultural landscapes, folklore, written records, and racialized and gendered spaces this study uncovers the hidden voices of the men and women who cooked for their enslavers. Enslaved cooks were highly skilled, trained, and professional, creating meals that made Virginia known for its cuisine and hospitality. They were at the core of Virginia's domesticity and culinary pride as well as the center of the plantation community. Archaeological and historical records reveal the centrality of the cook's role and the material culture exemplifies how cooks created a Black landscape within a white world, and were able to share this unique space with the larger enslaved population. This study also explores the memory of enslaved cooks and their legacy in American culture.

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