Toni Tipton-Martin is a local food journalist and founder of the SANDE Youth Project, a non-profit organization based in Austin that enriches lives through culture, cuisine, and community, and The Jemima Code, a pop-up exhibit and blog that engages social history. Through her work, Tipton-Martin advocates learning from ones past to improve ones future.
Tipton-Martin is currently teaching a 6-week pilot cooking class, called A Taste of African Heritage, through the Oldways African Heritage and Health program at the George Washington Carver Museum. Along with demonstrating professional culinary skills, the curriculum promotes healthy eating while emphasizing the importance of history and pride.
“Cultural history and heritage definitely inspires people to cook more,” said Tipton-Martin, “and at the very least it invites them to seek more information.”
Students are given a class binder with information on the origin of certain ingredients, details of traditional culinary practices, and tips on how to incorporate healthy eating into their daily diet.
“People in the community used to have a sense of pride about their food,” said Tipton-Martin, “but today when we think of African American cooking, we are stuck in the soul movement of the 1960s and a handful of dishes that barely represent the full spectrum of the black cooking experience. I am promoting curiosity.”
According to Tipton-Martin, the working poor have limited access to wholesome ingredients and don’t have time to shop and prepare food at home due to systematic barriers.
“A first step is to educate families about the junk in their environment so they realize just what is happening to their bodies and their kids, and to show them that their ancestors didn’t eat this stuff,” said Tipton-Martin. “Once we have their attention, we can move on to teaching them healthy cooking that is quick, easy, tasty, and economical.”
By Dagny Asase