This word is tossed around loosely and means different things to different people. Soul was a common definer used to describe African-American culture and in this sense it centers on this cultures food. It supposedly originated in the 1960s and emphasized fried, roasted and boiled food dishes. These recipes used primarily pork, pork fat, chicken, organ meats, sweet potatoes, corn and green leafy vegetables.
European enslavers fed their captive workers as cheaply as possible, often with leftover/waste foods from the plantation, forcing slaves to make do with the ingredients at hand. This cuisine evolved and is also closely related to the cuisine of the Southern United States. The all familiar pigs’ feet, chitlins’ (pig small intestine), pig ears, ham hocks, tripe, oxtails, to name a few, became the African American slaves mainstay. And now oxtails have become the preferred meat of connoisseurs from all over the world and you will pay a hefty price to eat this delicacy that once was considered trash.
As a young child, I disliked the smell of this so-called soul food! The aroma made me sick to my stomach and was not an appetizing plate to behold. My father would add slices of hot cornbread and big dollop of pinto beans. I would devour the cornbread and eat one bean (in protest). His reply was always “That’s all you gonna eat for dinner?”
Today this cuisine is said to cause the many ails that African Americans experience, like diabetes, high blood pressure, high-calorie diets, and high intake of salt-cured, smoked meat. But I have changed my opinion of soul food as I have grown older and have had my share of pickled pig feet (um yum!).
Soul Food © Some rights reserved by Jen SFO-BCN on Flickr