Some people came away from The Help (book or movie) troubled by its depiction of a difficult era in history, and others defended its perspective. But maybe these camps missed the point, and The Help is really about how good the food made by those underpaid domestics was, including a chocolate pie central to the plot that has a pretty nasty twist. Luckily, the major food magazines get it!
According to the Association of Black Women Historians, during the 1960s, when the book is set, "up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes." Let's give Food Wine the benefit of the doubt and say that it was trying to celebrate their sometimes-erased contributions to Southern culinary history. After all, a black female chef in Mississippi contributed recipes on set and in the article.
Even with that totally optional dose of charitableness, who wants to eat a pie recipe based on (spoiler alert) a plot line involving a racist caricature eating a pie made of a servant's shit? (Seen here).
This is no isolated phenomenon. The Dallas Morning News' headline for a subscriber-only story is "The Help Will Make You Hungry." HSN's product line of Southern-nostalgia home goods and kitchen implements also includes a demure clothing line designed by Lela Rose. What, no crisp maid's uniform?
Southern Living, having a home team advantage on Old South nostalgia, pairs its interview with Kathryn Stockett with recipes featuring copy like, "Every lady worth her white gloves knows that bridge club day is all about the gossip. Make a batch of chicken salad to serve your friends during a mid-afternoon gathering." Or just have a woman you refuse to let use your bathroom do it, like old times.
My personal favorite: "If you close your eyes and wish really hard, Minny might just show up at your bedside with a heapin' helping of this flaky, delicious chicken pot pie." If you'd close your eyes and wished really hard, those meddling Northerners and homegrown Civil Rights agitators might never have ruined the good old days!
And they even have their own version of shit pie. Nothing tastes sweeter than a gauzy haze over a brutal history.
Southern Recipes Inspired By The Help [Southern Living]
The Help Will Make You Hungry [Dallas Morning News]
The Help: Southern Food [Food And Wine]
Related: An Open Statement To Fans Of The Help [ABWH]
Why The Help's Critics Are All Wrong [Salon]