What’s the historical significance of the Reconciliation Dinner?
In spring 1865, a freed slave and famed Charleston chef, Nat Fuller, hosted a Reconciliation dinner at his restaurant, the Bachelor’s Retreat. He invited Charleston’s elite, both white and black, to sit down together in peace, and served an elaborate dinner that celebrated the local environment. The spirit embodied in that historic dinner helped invigorate the desire for social justice in post-Civil War America during a unique culinary experience that still calls to us to gather around a dinner table today.
In 2015, Kevin Mitchell, an instructor of the Culinary Institute of Charleston, gathered a consortium of local culinary and social justice groups and recreated the Nat Fuller dinner, replicating both the authentic low country menu and the spirit of peace among key stakeholders and leaders around the table.
The Shreveport Reconciliation dinner followed this model, substituting our local foods for the feast.
We know that the breaking of bread together is a pathway to peace. We hope this event provided the opportunity to highlight the great progress in racial reconciliation, as well as where societal divides and challenges still remain, and the seeds for hope and future work together ahead.
Who hosted and sponsored this event?
Under the coordination of Slow Food North Louisiana, the event brings together local individuals and organizations committed to these dual issues of food justice and social justice. Our sponsors include: CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier, the Committee of 100, The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, Belden & Pamela Daniels, Grigg’s Enterprise, Inc. • McDonald’s, G. Carlton Golden & Rachel Golden, NAACP-LA — Shreveport Branch, Whole Foods Market, and a shared sponsorship between The Times and Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, plus in-kind sponsors Great Raft Brewing, Mahaffey Farms, Marilynn’s Place, Newt Lynn, Petroleum Club of Shreveport, Rhino Coffee, Slow Food North Louisiana, and Thrifty Liquor. We are grateful for the support of many in Shreveport who are deeply invested in acknowledging and furthering our shared culinary history and social history.
What’s on the menu?
Our menu featured local, seasonal foods of Northwest Louisiana and can be found here.
I’m passionate about this issue. Could I have attended?
While we would love to have included all who care about the issues at the heart of the Reconciliation Dinner, we were limited to a small number of invitees in efforts to preserve the depth of the dialogue around peace and reconciliation. If you would like to be added to our email mailing list to receive news after the first Reconciliation dinner, please contact us.
Where can I learn more?
To learn more about the historic Nat Fuller Reconciliation dinner of 1865 and its re-enactment last year, see “Original Dinner” or follow these links:
- “Nat Fuller’s Feast” by David S. Shields at his Common-Place online journal of early American life
- Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy podcast (episode 17)
- Slow Food magazine (in the Spring 2015 issue available at the linked site)