The Kitchen Sisters Present… Stories from the b-side of history. Lost recordings, hidden worlds, people possessed by a sound, a vision, a mission. The episodes tell deeply layered stories, lush with interviews, field recordings and music. From powerhouse producers The Kitchen Sisters (Hidden Kitchens, The Hidden World of Girls, The Sonic Memorial Project, Lost & Found Sound, Fugitive Waves and coming soon… The Keepers). "The Kitchen Sisters have done some of best radio stories ever broadcast" —Ira Glass. The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced in collaboration with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell and mixed by Jim McKee. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
Black Chef, White House—African American Chefs in the President's Kitchen
A look at the President’s kitchen and some of the first cooks to feed the Founding Fathers—Hercules and James Hemings—the enslaved chefs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Hercules, described as a “dandy,” had eight assistants—stewards, butlers, undercooks, waiters. He cooked in a huge fireplace—hearth cooking. He walked through the streets of Philadelphia in a velvet waistcoat, with a gold-handled cane. When Washington was getting ready to leave Philadelphia to return to Mt. Vernon, Hercules escaped. Washington sent out search parties and offered rewards. Hercules was never found.
In 1784, Thomas Jefferson was appointed minister to France. He took with him his body servant, 19-year-old James Hemings (the brother of Sally Hemings), to master the French style of cooking. Hemings apprenticed with well-known French caterers and pastry chefs and assumed the role of chef de cuisine in Jefferson’s kitchen on the Champs-Elysees, earning $48 a year. In 1793, Hemings petitioned Jefferson for his freedom. Jefferson consented upon one condition—he must train someone to take his place. After teaching his brother, Peter Hemings, the cooking techniques he had learned in France and at home, James Hemings became a free man.
These stories begin a long connection of presidents and their African American cooks, including the story of Zephyr Wright, President Lyndon Johnson’s cook who worked for the family for 27 years. Johnson spoke to Zephyr Wright about the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington. She attended the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Johnson gave her a pen he used to sign the document.
Featuring interviews with: Jessica Harris, Culinary Historian and author of The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking; Historian Willliam Seale, author of The President’s House; Chef Joe Randall, founder of African American Chef’s Hall of Fame; William Woys Weaver, food historian and author; Sharron Conrad, African American food historian. Special thanks to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum and Michael L. Gillette for use of Zephyr Wright’s oral history.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) and Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell. Part of Radiotopia from PRX, a curated network of podcasts created and owned by independent producers.
The Mardi Gras Indians—Stories from New Orleans
Jelly Roll Morton talks of being a “Spy Boy” in the Mardi Gras Indian parades of his youth. Bo Dollis, of the Wild Magnolias, tells of sewing his suit of feathers and beads all night long. Tootie Montana masks for the first time as Mardi Gras starts up again after World War II. Big Queen Ausettua makes connections between the black Mardi Gras Indian traditions of New Orleans and Africa. Sister Alison McCrary, a Catholic nun and social justice attorney, tells of Big Chief Tootie Montana’s death at the podium in city council chambers defending the rights of the Mardi Gras Indians to parade without harassment.
A collection of stories and interviews in honor of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans. With special thanks and a shout out to all of the “Keepers” who have documented, preserved and shared these stories, including the Folklife Center Collection at the Library of Congress, Nick Spitzer and American Routes, filmmaker Lisa Katzman, and WWOZ in New Orleans.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is part of PRX’s Radiotopia network and is produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson), with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell.
Architecture, Family Style – Sarah Harkness & Jean Fletcher
Sarah “Sally” Pillsbury and Jean B. Fletcher were both architects who married architects. The two women and their husbands were founding members of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), a visionary, idealistic architecture firm founded just after WWII.
The two women, who had 13 children between them, lived with their families and several other founding partners in Six Moon Hill, a residential community in Lexington, Massachusetts, designed by the group.
TAC was a world class firm of eight architects, including famed architect Walter Gropius, working collectively as a team, stressing anonymity of design. The group won design awards and competitions, and was hired by the National Institute of Architects to design their new headquarters.They also designed the Harvard Graduate Center, many civic and educational buildings, and the University of Baghdad.
Soon after the founding of the firm in 1947, Sarah and Jean wrote an article for House & Garden titled “Architecture, Family Style” which – as their biographer Michael Kubo writes – constituted something of a manifesto for the changing needs of the postwar housewife.
Produced by Brandi Howell for Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s podcast New Angle: Voice with host Cynthia Krakauer. Editorial advising from Alexandra Lange. Production assistants Virginia Eskridge and Aislinn McNamara.
Special thanks to Sara Harkness and Joseph Fletcher, Michael Kubo and Amanda Kolson Hurley. Current Six Moon Hill residents Linda Pagani and Barbara Katzenberg kindly opened their homes and shared their stories. Long time TAC partners Perry Neubauer and Gail Flynn were generous with their time as were Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel. The archival oral history of Sally Harkness comes from her interview with Wendy Cox.
Funding for New Angle: Voice comes from National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Graham Foundation.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) with Brandi Howell and Nathan Dalton. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and contributors to the non profit Kitchen Sisters Productions.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is part of Radiotopia from PRX, a curated network of podcasts created by independent producers.
The Pancake Years - For Lenny on Christmas Eve
For five years Davia’s father, Lenny Nelson, asked her to go to Rattlesden, England, to visit the Air Force base where he was stationed during WWII and to find an old photograph hanging in the town pub honoring his 8th Air Force squadron. It was still there, over 50 years later, he told her. Finally, one fine Sunday, Davia headed out in search of the pub and a piece of her father’s past—the piece he was proudest of.
Lenny died on Christmas Eve 2015. In his honor, we share the journey with you.
Samuel Shelton Robinson helped produce this story with The Kitchen Sisters. He’s from London. It seemed only right.
Emily Dickinson's Hidden Kitchen—Black Cake
Deep in the hidden archives of Harvard’s Houghton Library are the butter stained recipes of Emily Dickinson. Who knew? Emily Dickinson was better known by most as a baker than a poet in her lifetime.
In this story a beautiful line up of “Keepers”— dedicated archivists, librarians, historians, poets and more—lead us through the complex labyrinth of Emily Dickinson’s hidden kitchen. Black cake, gingerbread, slant rhyme, secret loves, family scandals, poems composed on the back of a coconut cake recipe —we journey into the world of poet Emily Dickinson. Filled with mystery, intrigue and readings by Patti Smith, Thornton Wilder, Jean Harris and an array of passionate poets and experts.
Lou Reed's Tai Chi
Lou Reed, musician, rock icon, poet, leader of the legendary Velvet Underground, was obsessed with tai chi — the practice, the community, the health and spiritual benefits. Lou had been writing a book about this ancient martial art that was unfinished when he died in 2013.
Lou’s wife, the artist and musician Laurie Anderson, looked at Lou's unfinished work and decided the book needed to be completed, that there was something important to be shared in Lou’s long, life-altering journey with tai chi.
She turned to three of Lou's friends to help her with the project. By the time the book, The Art of the Straight Line: My Tai Chi by Lou Reed, hit the stands in the spring of 2023, they had spoken with nearly 100 people and created a riveting portrait of Lou’s spiritual, medical and musical life, beckoning readers to enter the world of tai chi.
The Kitchen Sisters read the book and we kept thinking, these conversations must have been taped. We asked Laurie if there were recordings. There were. Dozens and dozens of them from rock stars, to tai chi masters, to doctors, to family….
We listened to the raw interviews, this remarkable trove of sound and story, and created a podcast that goes deep inside the making of this book. Voices heard in the story include Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Julian Schnabel, Hal Willner, Anohni, Master Ren and many more, plus archival recordings of Lou Reed.
The Kitchen Sisters Present: Lou Reed’s Tai Chi.
“Well, everybody does something, some people race cars, others collect stamps. I find tai chi to be philosophically, aesthetically, physically and spiritually fascinating.” — Lou Reed
Nothing else like this
Always something you would not hear about anywhere else. The Kitchen Sisters don’t disappoint in providing extra interesting topics and people who you will want to research further . I often think how have I never heard about this person after an episode.
One of my favorites
Excellent storytelling, editing, and interviews. Radiolab first introduced me to the audio tapestries that are possible on radio / podcast. Kitchen Sisters transports you to hidden kitchens and other oral histories. My favorite episodes are the Sam Phillips episode about Sun Records, and the one about barbecue pits.
I’m absolutely living for the Hip-hop archive in Harvard. I also really enjoy the diversity of the show in general. From women of different ethnic backgrounds, occupations, history really, coming together and giving them the platform to speak their truth. Keep the diversity going and flowing.