February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month, a celebration of Black culture that’s been on the calendar for over 50 years. It’s a special time of year to celebrate Black creators, support Black-owned businesses, and highlight the diversity and deliciousness of Black cuisine.
For this Black History Month spotlight, we sat down with one of CookIt’s talented influencers, Meiko Temple. Not only is Meiko the writer, chef, photographer, and recipe developer behind Meiko and The Dish, but she’s also the founder of Eat the Culture, a community of Black creators in the culinary field. Here, she shares how she started this community, what her dreams are for its future, and her favorite dish from Eat the Culture’s virtual potlucks.
How did Eat the Culture start?
Meiko: Eat the Culture began in 2017. It started because me and another Black content creator, Aaron of The Hungry Hutch, wanted to bring other Black content creators together for Black History Month. So we thought, let’s do a roundup. But roundups are not new. We didn’t invent the roundup. So then we were like, you know what, no one is really telling our food stories. Let’s do something bigger. Let’s name it. Let’s reach out to the media and tell them what we have to say about the food that resonates with us, why we love it, how we grew up eating it. But we didn’t know anybody, so we basically just started reaching out to different popular media outlets, like Food52, etc.
Surprisingly, the media outlets were very receptive. They said, “yeah, we’d love to cover this!”. We learned a lot about media that year. We thought we could write one article and give it to everybody, which (now we know) is not how it works. We realized quickly that we were providing value to the media, but also providing value to the participants through exposure. And we thought, this is something really special. So we kept doing it every year. We had anywhere from 30 to 70 people participating in these “virtual potlucks” that were shared on different media outlets. We created themes and people developed recipes around those themes. It’s expanded from Black History Month to Juneteenth to the holidays.
Wow, that’s incredible. So what is Eat the Culture now?
Meiko: This past year we decided to formalize it. The people who I leaned on during those first few years after Aaron stepped away are now on the official board. I’m so grateful for all of us working together. It’s not just the Black History Month virtual potluck or the Juneteenth virtual cookout. It’s now under this organization called Eat the Culture, where we are creating spaces for black content creators, creating initiatives to help educate them and build their businesses through digital media, and then creating opportunities for them to gain exposure.
What are your dreams for Eat the Culture in the future?
Meiko: Ooh! We want to continue to provide value for our community of Black content creators. We want to continue to find ways to educate and push them. We want to have almost like a virtual academy where we are providing lessons now on how to grow their businesses. We also want this to be a resource for brands. We currently don’t work with brands specifically for these initiatives. I think this is a great pool of talent, and especially now more than ever many brands have policies and initiatives in place in order to have representation and diversity in their campaigns. We are grooming all of the content creators to produce high quality content. So ultimately, we want to be a resource for brands and media for hiring and paying these content creators.
That’s amazing! So how can creators become a part of Eat the Culture?
Meiko: In the very beginning, I just had a passion for following black content creators, so I kept a list. I would go to their pages and comment because I wanted to support them. Then eventually we developed a Facebook group called the Black Food Bloggers Club, which acted as a hub for us to keep up with what was happening. Now that we’ve grown, it’s an application process. We invite all Black content creators to apply! We ask them questions that help us figure out whether or not they’re a great fit for the collaboration and that’s how we move forward. So all are invited to apply, but we do have a filtering process where we find who’s the best fit.
How does it feel for you personally to be involved in a group like this?
Meiko: It’s very important to me. I think for me, if I could speak a little bit about my personal background, I come from a family based in the Midwest: Kansas City, Missouri and Wichita, Kansas. But my grandfather passed away when I was very young and I never met him, and my grandmother was adopted, so there’s always been a gap in understanding my roots. So in trying to figure that out, I lean on the things that I’m naturally good at, and one of the things that I’ve always been naturally good at is cooking.
I was in the kitchen very young. I would cook for my sisters all the time. Then once I got older, I would cook for my friends. Then I started sharing recipes. And, you know, I went to school for a lot of stuff for many years, but I never grasped anything as much as I grasped cooking. So for me, being in this community makes me feel like I have roots. I don’t feel that all the time when it comes to family, because there’s just this gap that exists, but here, I feel like I’m connected. Then when I see the stories about the roots of the food or certain foods that we commonly eat in our community, being connected back to the motherland, I’m like, oh, that makes so much sense.
You know, I’m learning as I go as well. I’m really creating a lot of understanding for myself as to why my life is this way, why I lean this way, why I’m so connected to this particular art, and it’s this community that has helped me do that. I find being a part of the Eat the Culture community and the Black food blogger community is incredibly valuable, not just for me, but for a lot of people.
What is your favorite dish that either you, or another member of Eat the Culture, has created?
Meiko: Oh, man! The hard part is that even though you see these dishes, you don’t always get a chance to taste them all since it’s a virtual potluck. My husband is a participant in the virtual potlucks though, so I’ll speak to one of his dishes because it’s what won me over. So we were dating and I visited him in New Orleans, which is where he’s from. I had never had oxtail, and he made this oxtail dish that just blew my mind. And I was like, there’s no way I can leave this guy because I need to have this dish all the time. He has this oxtail in brown gravy, it’s tender and juicy and falls off the bone. It’s fatty in all the right places and just, ah! I get excited just thinking about it. I don’t know if he’s used that in a roundup, but that is probably my favorite thing. Also red beans and rice! Classic, simple, basic, but so good.
Click here to see the recipes included in Eat the Culture’s
2022 Black History Month Virtual Potluck.
If you’re interested in learning more about Meiko, visit her blog
Meiko and The Dish.
If you’d like to make the oxtail dish that won her over, head over to her husband Kenneth Temple’s blog for the recipe.