Sophia Roe: 'Counter Space' explores controversial stories of food

Sophia Roe hosts "Counter Space" on Tastemade. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Sophia Roe hosts "Counter Space" on Tastemade. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Sophia Roe said Season 2 of her food series Counter Space, premiering Tuesday on Tastemade's streaming channel, explores the social and political factors that go into our foods.

"The origin story of our foods -- we want those stories to be really sweet, kind and nice," Roe told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "That's not always the case."


Season 1 explored Yemenese coffee, 3D-printed steak and street food that supported Hong Kong protestors. Season 2 begins with an episode on breakfast, which Roe said is a complicated issue.

"What happens if you are a worker in Thailand and you get up at 2 in the morning?" Roe asked rhetorically. "When Is the first meal of the day?"

Counter Space sent a correspondent to Thailand, where Trang Central Market vendors and monks exchange breakfast food for prayers. Roe said she originally wanted to take the subject of breakfast back to infancy, but compromised with the look at breakfast in different cultures.


"I thought it'd be really cool to do breast milk, like mother's milk," Roe said.

The breakfast episode also includes an interview with a cereal box collector. Roe said he hopes Season 3 might explore the actual production of cereal.

"The idea of cereal is really controversial," Roe said. "Why did we need it? Did we ask for it? Who made it? Who are the people who grow those crops?"

Roe said she became aware of issues surrounding the globalization of food and sustainability while in high school in Florida. So, when producers pitched her Counter Space in 2020, it was a natural fit.

"I distinctly remember being a little kid and receiving a box of oranges that said 'Product of Guatemala' on it," Roe said. "I knew that food was going to be an important part of my life when I was young, but I know how to talk about it now, particularly if we're talking about scarcity and hunger."

Roe said her high school was on an orange grove, but she learned that Florida-grown oranges were not kept in the state.

"This is proof of globalization and how even back in the '80s, we were still not necessarily shopping local," Roe said. "More than half of Florida citrus is for yield. So it's just meant to be sent everywhere."


Roe said even negative food stereotypes may have a basis in complicated history, adding that said the stereotype that Black people love fried chicken comes from slavery.

"When enslaved people were first brought here, the only animals they were allowed to own were the guinea hen," Roe said. "We don't like that story, but it's the truth."

In subsequent episodes of Counter Space, Roe interviews a beekeeper, a fisherman and a rancher. She also interviewed celebrities like Eva Longoria and Shaggy.

Longoria discusses her Casa Del Sol Tequila with Roe, who said Longoria opened up about getting in touch with her Mexican roots and running an entirely woman-owned company.

Rapper Shaggy introduced Roe to new foods at a restaurant.

"He ordered the whole menu," Roe said. "The table was for eight, and it was just filled with Jamaican beef patties and ox tail and whole fried fish," she said.

Counter Space includes segments of Roe in the kitchen, making foods related to the episode's subject, but she said she always wants her cooking segments to have a twist.

"Why just do chocolate in a sweet way?" Roe asked. "Let's make chocolate pasta, which is delicious and savory."


After dropping out of the Culinary Institute of America, Roe worked in restaurants and private catering. She developed a social media presence on Instagram, and said she always wanted to be on TV.

"I'm a Black woman hosting a TV show," Roe said. "It's really sad that there are not more of those. There need to be 100 more Black women hosting cooking shows."

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