The 13-part NPR series, Hidden Kitchens: Stories of Land, Kitchen and Community, is a wonderful, at times heart warming reminder of the cultural and social influence of food. By exploring the world of hidden kitchens be it street corners, unique kitchens or in this story below, a makeshift kitchen in a prison cell it showcases how people’s stories of courage, redemption and resourcefulness connect us. It also features recipes, via the NPR website, for great regional, local dishes. Small stories that say something big.
The oral history programs are produced by the San Francisco-based Kitchen Sisters. Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva have been collaborating together since 1979. Previous efforts were not related to the culinary. In fact they won 2 Peabody Awars for thier radio series Lost and Found Sound: An Aural History of the 20th Century and for "The Sonic Memorial Project. Now the This audio collection has now been assembled into a book that includes recipes, photos and additional stories that were not featured in the radio effort. Now the book is being turned into a three-CD audio book, read by actress Frances McDormand.
If you are in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 19, the Kitchen Sisters will be at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market at Noon.
Making Clandestine Candy Behind Bars (link to NPR for audio program)
"Robert ‘King’ Wilkerson, who created the most amazing kitchen. He was in prison at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement, basically as a political prisoner, because he was a Black Panther. He started a chapter of the Black Panther movement with two of his other friends. They had become a sort of a cause celebre known as the Angola Three.
Somehow, in solitary confinement, he managed to create a kitchen — and he did it out of a stove made of coke cans, and he burnt toilet paper rolls to get heat. And he made pralines, which we love in New Orleans. He made these delicious candies and perfected the recipe, hidden in prison.
They decided they had made a mistake for locking him up for so long. ‘King’ had a new trial, and he’s out now, and he sells his candies which he calls "Freelines." He does it as a way to help raise (consciousness) about political prisoners. ‘King’ learned to do it from his friend ‘Cap Pistol,’ who was in the kitchen at the time and taught him how to make sugar candy. And they are really, really good."