Soul Food : A Brief History

When I hear the words "soul food" my mouth begins to water, my stomach begins to growl and the thought bubble above my head begins to form with images of greens, fried chicken, mac-and-cheese, cornbread, black eyed peas, candied yams and sweet potato pie. However, that thought bubble seldom includes a deeper understanding of how and why these foods came to be known and loved by millions throughout the United States.


In a short article published in Epicurious, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of the American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time Adrian E. James explains that "Soul Food" is now a more general term to "describe all African American cooking," however, soul food originates mostly from the deep southern states of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.

...soul food is filled with bold flavors and seasonings.

During the Atlantic Slave trade, enslaved African people were given sparse portions of food which were hugely inadequate in both nutrient content and quality. Some of the most commonly used ingredients found in many recipes include rice, okra, pork and greens tying soul food directly to African roots. Examining food such as corn bread, we

find that because corn was a staple of nearly every meal, enslaved African people used innovation and collaboration with nearby Native American folks to create a variety of ways to prepare corn. Okra, a vegetable typically served fried, is a native Ethiopian


vegetable. The way greens were prepared by enslaved African people also have deep roots to many different African cuisines across the continent. Using the left over animal bones and other ingredients, boiled kale, collards and other various leafy greens are similar to such dishes as Kenyan sukuma wiki and Ethiopian gomen wat.

Using the left over animal bones and other ingredients, boiled kale, collards and other various leafy greens are similar to such dishes as Kenyan sukuma wiki and Ethiopian gomen wat.

During the Atlantic Slave Trade there was no refrigeration; it was the enslaved African people who preserved and cured the pork. It is those techniques which have been adapted to influence the way BBQ is made today. Through this painful history and years of innovation, perseverance and resilience these foods have developed into the foods loved by millions.


Sources:

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/real-history-of-soul-food-article

https://www.blackfoodie.co/the-humble-history-of-soul-food

https://aaregistry.org/story/soul-food-a-brief-history/

https://ushistoryscene.com/article/slavery-southern-cuisine/

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