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Central New Jersey museum to celebrate food of the African diaspora


The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM), Central New Jersey’s first museum dedicated to Black history, will celebrate its third annual Oxtail Fest at Hopewell Valley Vineyards 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23.

Oxtail is the meat from the tail of a cow. Across many cultures worldwide, oxtail has been a culinary mainstay for centuries but in the United States it is particularly associated with African American and Caribbean cuisine.

Eating “high on the hog” was not afforded to enslaved peoples along the transatlantic triangle slave trade route. The enslaved were given discarded cuts of meat such as the hooves, feet, intestines, heads, and tails of the animal while their captors enjoyed the prime cuts. Yet what the captors failed to recognize was that with imagination, innovation, proper preparation, and love, these throw-away cuts would be transformed into life-sustaining and exquisitely flavorful dishes.

Traditional African methods involve slow-cooking oxtail to achieve tenderness and flavor. However, like oysters, kale and many other staples of working-class culinary traditions, oxtail has undergone the effects of gentrification. With a soaring price-per-pound, the once lowly oxtail is now a luxury dish affordable only on special occasions for many.

This year’s Oxtail Fest will take place during Women’s History Month.

“This year’s event focuses on the power of contemporary sisterhood by honoring the kinships forged among African American women for the purpose of survival,” said Donnetta Johnson, executive director of SSAAM. “Traditionally Black women who might have otherwise been destroyed by the atrocities of kidnapping, enslavement and the legacy of those impacts on the African American family, survived by holding each other up, supporting one another, and collectively holding their often fragmented families together. ‘Sit down and let me feed you baby,’ is what my auntie’s would say to me when I found myself at their table after a stressful day at school or work. This was a powerful and practical expression of love. Food has been our love language and a tool to comfort, encourage, survive and thrive to the present day.”

With a nod to Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and its film and Broadway adaptations, shades of victorious purple will figure prominently in the spirit and design of the event.

As in previous SSAAM Oxtail Fest events, the feast will feature an array of specialties from the African American, Caribbean and Afro-Latin diaspora. In addition to oxtail delicacies, guests will be treated to Jerk chicken, as well as a wide array of delicious side dishes. The meal will feature staples such as collards, okra, Jollof rice, cornbread, croquetas, empanadas, and an assortment of traditional desserts. The menu will offer a wide selection of culturally-based vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, and gluten-free options.

This year’s event will be held at the 75-acre Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington, N.J., and proceeds from the event will fund SSAAM operations, research, and programming to preserve, protect, and share African American history, historic sites, and contributions in the Sourland Mountain region and Central New Jersey.

Supporters can also contribute to the event with a business sponsorship or by purchasing an ad in the Oxtail Fest Program.

Space is limited. Event tickets, sponsorships and program ads are available now at

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