Acclaimed Nobel Prize winner Tony Morrison has her novel A Mercy set in the colonial America of 1680 in New York, Maryland and Virginia. Many cultures were contributing to the abundantly laid table. Gronim writes: “New York had not attracted huge waves of colonists. By the turn of the eighteenth century, a census counted a mere eighteen thousand people (including slaves)” (3). New York was where our protagonist, the Vaarks, Florens, their African-American slave, Lina, their Native-American slave, Sorrow, an orphan, and their two indentured British servants are living. As many people living in the New York colony, the Vaarks were farmers and made their living from agriculture. They would have gardens, chickens, geese and hogs and possibly supplement their income with hunting.
Maryland, on the other hand was a Catholic colony and “until the 1770s, tobacco and corn were the most important crops” (Carr 4). Many slaves were needed, since tobacco and corn are labor-intensive crops. At the beginning of the eighteenth century most of the labor was made by indentured servants, such as Willard and Scully represent in our novel. They were often white immigrants who had to pay for their passage over the Atlantic from Europe in usually five years of labor. Yet, this shifted to have more enslaved Africans and their descendants do the labor-intensive work.
Morgan writes that in Virginia, “They farmed more grains, raised more livestock, and planted more orchards. Pastoral farming in particular gained impetus during the last few decades of the seventeenth century when the Chesapeake tobacco industry suffered a prolonged depression” (2).
The African American newspaper, The Colored American, writes in 1839 about the dignity of black people working as laborers in the field: “Their intelligence gave dignity to their work, and so our laborers, once educated, will give dignity to their toils.” This quote shows the root of these people. It shows how they are not only more than a simple field hand, but that they are the soul behind it.
A major question that has continually been around is the preservation of African food traditions through slavery. Lisa Shiflett says it has been preserved in her journal article, West African food traditions in Virginia foodways: A historical analysis of origins and survivals in the quote that says, “…this study concludes that West African food traditions did survive slavery and have affected foodways across cultural lines in Virginia…” (Shiflett 2). In the time of African American slaves, there were two extremely important aspects of their everyday lives: religion and food. “Southern eating and cooking habits were specifically influenced by African-American slaves, who...