Recipes for a soulful Fourth of July

The dish for the 4th of July reminds me of barbecue. And when I think of barbecue, I think of my grandfather, James Howard, a cannibal who owned and operated Dem Bones Bar B-Que Shack for 30 years on Santa Monica Avenue in West Los Angeles.

He grew up picking cotton in Texas, learned to cook in the Marines, and then opened sober living homes here in LA. I have newspaper clippings of him sitting at Dem Bones in front of a large plate of beef ribs, grinning from ear to ear, with blues playing in the background, I’m sure. I spent a lot of time with him as the son of a single working mother, Fredda Draluck, and the influence both my grandparents had on my life was immeasurable.

My grandmother, Marcia Howard, made sure I knew both my Jewish and Black history, and the work she herself did proudly in the civil rights movements. She often reminds me of how she was “captured” in the womb, when my great-grandmother, who was actually arrested, went to protest in 1930s New York, while pregnant. a few months pregnant with Marcia. I watched my grandma Actively worked and fought for civil, women’s and peasant rights almost until the day she passed away.

Her Jewish Bronx upbringing is the opposite of my grandfather’s upbringing in rural Texas, but somehow they worked magic together and never failed to get me on the show. . I spent a lot of time at my grandfather’s restaurant after school but didn’t really know I wanted to cook until he was retired for a few years.

Baked beans are made with ketchup, brown sugar and a variety of spices for warmth and sweetness.

Martin Draluck’s baked beans are made with ketchup, brown sugar and a variety of spices to create the warmth and sweetness of this classic American dish.

(Ricardo DeArathanha / Los Angeles Times)

When I decided to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps into the culinary world, I started as a pastry chef around 2008, working at Joe’s Restaurant under the direction of chef Joe Miller. That’s where I met my good friend and culinary mentor, Brian Dunsmoor. Brian saw something in me from the beginning and told me that back then I was going to be a pastry chef at one of his restaurants.

Brian, of course, will continue to make his mark on the LA restaurant scene with pop-up projects Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing and Hart and the Hunter, while I work at Milo & Olive, where I’m starting to move on Make cakes and into pizzas and cook savory. I was fortunate enough to reconnect with Dunsmoor in 2014 at his newly opened Ladies Sail Association, on Sawtelle Avenue, as a kitchen assistant, before following him to Hatchet Hall with as his head chef and ultimately his culinary chef.

My time at Hatchet Hall has changed my life. I’ve been eating in its building on Washington Avenue with my mom since I was 8, when it was called Crest House and was definitely the #1 spot in our neighborhood. To come back and help run this new space, I know it’s going to be special, but I don’t know how much.

That’s where the Hemings & Hercules project was born.

My Hemings & Hercules dinner actually stems from a project Brian started at Hatchet Hall called Fuss & Feathers, which explores the eating habits of the earliest Southern settlers and cooking techniques with their firewood. I tried to read the same or similar cookbooks and historical references to what Brian is and came across the stories of James Hemings and Hercules Posey, Thomas’ chefs and slave properties. Jefferson and George Washington. They are also the ones responsible for feeding us things like chips, ice cream, macaroni and cheese.

I approached Brian with the idea of ​​a side project based on two projects that I could put together using a similar format. I expected to have dinner only a handful of times before moving on to something else. I can’t imagine where it will lead me.

The past few years have been fortunate for me, despite all that has passed in the world. I am a small part of the wonderful Netflix documentary series “High on the Hog” and last year was featured for my work in LA Times magazine 101 Restaurants.

Those things and more have evolved into the Black Pot Supper Club experience, where I continue to tell lesser-known stories about the culinary influence of Blacks in America and turn my attention to recipes. cooking inspired by those men and women, all while cooking in an open fire with wood and coals, as they traditionally do.


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The dinner is primarily held at Post & Beam in Crenshaw County and features items such as pork head cheese, braised rabbit, and James Hemings-inspired snow eggs, one of only two recipes known to exist. from Hemings. The macaroni and cheese recipe is also on our menu and adds a nice twist to the classic with the addition of sherry to the base of Parmesan, black pepper and cream. The beans are made the way I think my grandfather did at Dem Bones, and the dessert is inspired by Joe’s early pastry days. For the main dish, I came up with a recipe for grilled rabbit, which was a popular protein in the game at the time.

Grilled rabbit feet with coriander, dill and thyme.

Grilled rabbit feet with coriander, dill and thyme.

(Ricardo DeArathanha / Los Angeles Times)

My grandparents didn’t really see me cook.

My grandfather passed while I was in culinary school, and my grandmother moved to Florida shortly after before passing. I didn’t and couldn’t imagine that when I started following in his footsteps it would lead to so many miracles of my own, to the point where I would give my mother something great to brag about or I will end up with food and face in local paper. I hope you enjoy these 4th of July recipes for dishes inspired by James Hemings, Hercules Posey, and my late grandfather James Howard. Recipes for a soulful Fourth of July

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