Kitchen Conversation – “They Lived Where They Worked” with Joe McGill, Director, The Slave Dwelling Project | Friday, October 30, 2015, 7:00pm | Geechee cuisine tasting by Chef Valerie Erwin


(Philadelphia) Join us for a Kitchen Conversation, “They Lived Where They Worked” with Joe McGill, Director, The Slave Dwelling Project, on Friday, October 30, 7pm at Cliveden, 6401 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144. The event includes tastings of Geechee / Gullah Foods by Chef Valerie Erwin. Suggested donation is $15. Space is limited – to reserve click here or call 215-848-1777.

About the Kitchen Conversation with Joe McGill

For the pastJoe McGill Hdsht 2nd sv crppd square five years, Joe McGill has been conducting extreme research by sleeping in extant slave dwellings – to date in fifteen states. On the night of October 29, he will be sleeping in the Kitchen Dependency built in 1767 at Cliveden. One discovery revealed by McGill’s research is that enslaved workers commonly lived where they worked – the field hands in cabins near the fields; blacksmiths in or near the blacksmiths shops; and the cooks in or near the kitchens. This Kitchen Conversation will chronicle past stays with a special emphasis on the kitchens, and incorporate his findings about the Cliveden Kitchen Dependency. The evening will include a tasting buffet of South Carolina Geechee cuisine of descendants of enslaved Africans prepared by Chef Valerie Erwin, of the former Geechee Girl Cafe in Mt. Airy.


Joseph McGill, Jr. is the founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc. and a history consultant for the Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC. By sleeping in extant slave dwellings, Mr. McGill has brought much needed attention to these often neglected structures that are vitally important to the American built environment. Prior to his current roles, Mr. McGill was a field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

About Chef Valerie Erwin

Chef Valerie Erwin, the driving force behind the Geechee Girl Cafe formerly on Germantown Avenue, is counted among Philadelphia’s pioneering female restauranteurs. With Geechee Girl, Erwin brought the South Carolina Geechee cuisine created by descendants of enslaved Africans to Philadelphia. She is now pursuing other interests including consulting, writing, and addressing social justice issues in the hospitality industry.

Upcoming Conversations

Kelley Deetz Cropped Almost SquareFriday, November 20, 7:00pm

“Cookin’ for the Big House: Slavery, Race, Gender, & the Kitchen Axis”

Dr. Kelley Deetz, University of Virginia

Includes meal by  The Caribbean Diner

Suggested Donation: $15

Space is limited – to reserve click here or call 215-848-1777

Dr. Deetz will lecture on her forthcoming book, Bound to the Fire: Virginia’s Enslaved Plantation Cooks and their Kitchens, which showcases the complex roles of enslaved kitchen laborers. She will discuss the social dynamics of entertainment, feasting, and the labor demands from multiple perspectives. Afterwards, Deetz will lead small group discussions about food, culture, race, and memory.

About Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz

Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz is the Research Associate for the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University at the University of Virginia. She is a Board Member of the Legacy Museum of African American History in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Co-Editor of the African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. Dr. Deetz holds a Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Gretchen SorinFriday, December 4, 7:00pm

“The Cup That Cheers: Drinking in the 18th Century”

Dr. Gretchen Sorin

Director, Cooperstown Graduate Program

Includes Tasting of 18th Century Style Wines & Beverages*

Suggested donation: $15

Space is limited – to reserve click here or call 215-848-1777

*Must be 18 or older to participate in wine tasting

Americans in the 18th century avoided water which could often be tainted and embraced spirituous beverages. This talk and slideshow discusses American’s fondness for alcohol, how it almost led to the disbanding of the Continental Army and the origins of our current interest in wine. Included are tastings of 18th century style wines, Haymakers’ Switchel, a non-alcoholic drink, and Tavern Biscuits made from an 18th century recipe.

About Dr. Gretchen Sorin

Dr. Sorin is the Director and Distinguished Professor of Museum Studies of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, NY. She is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and a Fellow of the New York Academy of History. Her publications include Touring Historic Harlem: Four Walks in Northern Manhattan, and her curatorial credits include the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition “In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Dr. Sorin’s professional acknowledgements include the Katherine Coffey Award, 2009, and SUNY Chancellor’s Research Recognition Award, 2005.

About the Kitchen Conversations
Cliveden’s “Kitchen Conversations” are part of the Living Kitchens at Cliveden planning process funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to restore and interpret two kitchens at the Cliveden historic site – a 1767 Kitchen Dependency that preliminary research indicates may have been used as living quarters for enslaved people, and a 1959 pre-fabricated Mid-Century Modern “Kitchen of the Future.” Led by a team of local and community experts, Living Kitchens at Cliveden is involving the community in the process to research and interpret the evolution of design, technology and utility of kitchens over time. The Kitchen Conversations will present information about the periods in which the kitchens were used and invite the audience to participate in a variety of project related activities.
About the Cliveden Conversations
The Cliveden Conversations are moderated discussions with activists, scholars and community members about issues surrounding race, history, and memory. The Cliveden Conversations engage audiences with the latest research while challenging them to perceive history in new ways. The Cliveden Conversation series was created as part of the Emancipating Cliveden Project which received a Leadership Award from the American Association for State & Local History.

About Living Kitchens at Cliveden

This program is presented as part of Living Kitchens at Cliveden, a public process supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to preserve and interpret two kitchens located on the property – the 1767 Kitchen Dependency and  1959  Mid-Century Modern “Kitchen of the Future”. Kitchens are a unique indicator of social and cultural change. Cliveden’s kitchens reflect the evolution of a household over 200 years, offering extant examples of kitchen spaces adapted over time. The 1767 Kitchen Dependency building was constructed separately from the main house. Preliminary research indicates this building may have served as living quarters for enslaved workers. The 1959 Mid-Century Modern pre-fabricated “Kitchen of the Future” was installed in an 18th century colonnade. By juxtaposing the simultaneous examination of the two kitchens, the project explores how the past, over three centuries, informs the present. Led by a team of local and community experts, Living Kitchens at Cliveden is involving the community in the process of exploring the foodways and domestic history of the Chew family household over 300 years, including the people who worked in the Cliveden kitchens – enslaved, indentured, immigrant,

Cliveden’s Executive Director, Dr. David Young, says of the project, “This discovery / recovery project will encourage people to consider History differently as they experience Cliveden’s two kitchens along with their own personal history. Virtually everyone has associations and memories related to kitchens. By sharing the project’s archaeological, architectural and social research, we will involve the public in the restoration and program goals for experiencing the spaces and explore together how kitchen history can inform contemporary issues, such as social mobility, food justice, and gender roles in America. Living Kitchens at Cliveden will invite the community to join us ‘at the table’ to deepen our understanding of race, history and memory, and strengthen  the foundation for community renewal in Germantown.”

About Cliveden, Inc.

Cliveden is a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Built in 1767 by Benjamin Chew, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Province of Pennsylvania as a summer home and plantation. Cliveden was the location of the 1777 Battle of Germantown during the Revolutionary War and a reenactment of the battle takes place on the site annually on the first Saturday in October. The property remained in the family for over 200 years and until it became an historic site in 1972.

Today Cliveden benefits from centuries of dedicated preservation efforts and remains one of the nation’s best-documented and least-altered Colonial houses. Cliveden creates a pride of place, where the past is valued, preserved, and accessible for the benefit of the community.Research into the Chew Papers continues to reveal the family’s extensive slave holding, and today Cliveden serves the surrounding community and region as a center for the exploration of race, history, and memory.

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