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10 facts about Soul Food
When you live abroad, you often think about your heritage in new ways. Thus I’ve been doing a lot of research on “Soul Food” and found some interesting stuff. I figured I’d share it in a fun video!
1. Soul food is niche within American southern cuisine.
Let’s start with figuring out, what the heck soul is to begin with since the distinction between soul and southern cuisine are hard to make. In the 1969 Soul Food Cookbook, Bob Jeffries summed it up well by saying: “While all soul food is southern food, not all southern food is ‘soul.’ Soul food cooking is an example of how really good southern Negro cooks cooked with what they had available to them.”
2. The term soul food didn’t even exist before the 60s.
With the rise of the civil rights and Black Nationalism movements during that era, many African Americans sought to establish their cultural legacy. So terms like “soul music” made way for “soul food” to describe the food that their ancestors had been cooking for generations.
3. The traditional West African diet was mostly vegetarian!
If you think soul food came from a tradition of cooking a bunch of hog maws and piles of fried chicken, think again! For thousands of years, the traditional West African diet was mostly vegetarian, centered on things like millet, rice, okra, hot peppers, and yams. Big portions of meat were for special occasions!
4. The transatlantic slave trade brought many foods to the Americas from BOTH Africa and Europe.
Rice, sorghum and okra were West African staples while foods like cabbage came from Portugal. Read more about the slave diet here.
5. Only around 4% of all African slaves traded during colonial times went to North America.
Did you know that the largest population of African blood outside of Africa is Brazil? Depending on who you ask, as little as 4% of African slaves went to North America… Brazil absorbed by far the most future soul brothers and sisters. By the way , ‘collard greens’ are called ‘couve’ in Brazil and in Portugal.
6. Collard greens have been eaten for at least 2000 years!
It’s believed that even Ancient Greeks even ate collard greens. In soul cooking, collard greens are typically boiled down in a pot of salted water with a piece of smoked meat like a hamhock or turkey leg, and it’s a soul food classic.
7. That scrumptious broth leftover in the pot after cooking greens is called ‘potlikker’.
Potlikker contains essential vitamins and minerals including iron and vitamin C. Especially important is that it contains a lot of vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting. So, maybe you should concentrate of drinking up that potlikker instead of picking on that ham hock next time? Might save you a heart attack.
8. Black eyed peas are good luck on New Year’s day… and good luck means money to black folks.
Black eyed peas are eaten all over the world, but in the Southern U.S., eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. Cornbread is a mandatory addition in my book: ‘CUZ IT’S GOLDEN since it sops up all the juices… oh yeah it also symbolizes gold… cha ching.
9. The “chitlin’ circuit” was the venues safe for blacks to perform during times of segregation.
The “chitlin’ circuit” was the name given to the string of performance venues that were acceptable for African American entertainers to perform during the age of racial segregation in the United States. The name derives from the soul food dish chitterlings or stewed pig intestines. They are slow cooked and take A LOT OF WORK! but are amazingly good: when done right.
10. The heart of soul food is the notion of ‘slow food’.
It takes a lot of love to make something like pig intestines taste good, which brings me to the term ‘Slow Food.’ Soul Food is the epitome of Slow Food: No short cuts! Patience is a key element in soul cooking. It took a lot of time and creativity to transform the few ingredients poor black southerners had to work with.
So, what’s soul food to you?
Any and every article written by Michael Twitty at www.Afroculinaria.com
Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History), by Frederick Douglass Opie
Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, by Adrian Miller
(and click on those links in the text! good articles and websites!)
Related video post: Cornbread: Special Southern Skillet Recipe!