• Faith Smith

UNDERSTANDING SOUL FOOD



Soul Food

Cuisine

Soul food: the foods, and techniques associated with the African American cuisine of the United States.


So, I asked my dad what soul food meant to him. “Fun, family, good times”. Then I asked my mom: “Family, a way of showing love and caring, it means culture, it means history.” Lastly, I asked my sister, she said: “a way of showing people you care, a way to share a piece of you and your family.” This is what soul food means to three of the most influential people in my life, the people who taught ME how to cook soul food. These ideas, this love, this culture have been passed down for generations, building onto each other to create the beautiful cuisine I grew up on called soul food.


Soul food comes from the cooking of homes in the Deep South. During the transatlantic slave trade, enslaved people weren’t given much to work with. Coarse grains, fibrous greens, and offshoots of various meats were commonly eaten. Working with what they were given, enslaved people preserved and adapted African cooking traditions to the rations they were given. Even after emancipation as their menu was able to expand, the cooking techniques and ideas were communicated over a broader spectrum. The phrase soul food became common in the 1960s with the rise of the black nationalist movement. Soul was a word used to unite black people and black culture. “Soul sister”, “soul music”, and of course “soul food” are all phrases that came from this development. Soul food is often conflated with southern food and while there are many similarities, like the cooking techniques and general flavors, the key difference is that southern food is the broader term with soul food being a subset that has now traveled and is being practiced across the country. While all soul food can be considered Southern, not all southern food is soul. Soul food is a key part of African-American culture, regardless of location.


Commonly found on a plate of soul food are fried meats like fried chicken or smothered pork chops, a green like kale or collards, a bean like black-eyed peas or lima beans, mac and cheese, and maybe a grain or carb like rice or cornbread. Common deserts are pound cake, sweet potato pie, and peach cobbler. Now, before we get to the recipes I’d just like to preface everything by saying that all of these recipes come from my family and our hearts. My mom is the one who taught me how to make mac and cheese and collard greens, I grew up watching her cook them and feeling the anticipation of smelling them cooking early in the morning. My grandmother taught my older sister how to make peach cobbler and, in turn, she taught me. My grandmother passed before I was born, the beautiful stories I’ve heard and this recipe are the main connections I have to her and I can’t wait to pass it on when I get older. All of these recipes hold a special place in my heart so here they are!!


Recipes


collard greens

What you’ll need:

  • 4 qt pot

  • 3 lbs of collard greens

  • 1 stick of butter

  • 1/4 cup of white sugar

  • 1/4 cup of vinegar

  • salt, garlic powder, and black pepper

  1. Wash all of your collard greens thoroughly and cut them into bite-size pieces

  2. Place them in your pot

  3. Fill the pot up enough to cover the greens

  4. Add all your seasonings

  5. Cook until the greens are tender, around 3 or 4 hours

Candied Yams

What you’ll need:

  • 6 medium-sized sweet potatoes or yams

  • half box brown sugar

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1 stick of butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Wash your sweet potatoes

  3. Boil the potatoes until almost soft

  4. (save some of the water) Drain and Peel them

  5. In a medium pot combine butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together

  6. Slice yams

  7. Pour the mixture over

  8. Let them cook in the oven for 2-3 hours with no cover

Mac and Cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 16 oz elbow pasta

  • 4 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup of milk(change for desired creaminess)

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 stick of butter

  • 9x13 pan

  1. Boil your pasta (salted water or chicken stock) use around 3/4 of the box

  2. Heat oven to 350

  3. Drain and pour the pasta into your pan

  4. Add 1/2 stick of butter and stir while the pasta is hot to melt butter

  5. Add egg

  6. Stir again until fully mixed

  7. Add 1 bag of sharp cheddar

  8. Stir until fully incorporated

  9. Add mozzarella

  10. Mix

  11. Add salt and pepper to your liking

  12. Add milk

  13. Until thoroughly mixed

  14. Add the last bag of cheese to cover the top

  15. Put in the oven for 30 min then check for color and continue until you reach your desired color

peach cobbler

What you’ll need:

  • 2 29 ounce cans of peaches in heavy syrup

  • 1 stick of salted butter

  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar

  • 1 cup of light brown sugar

  • 1 cup of white sugar

  • 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon

  • A handful of cloves

  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg

  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla

  • A pinch of black pepper

  • 2ct of Pillsbury pie crust

  1. Pour one can of peaches and liquid into your pot

  2. When you pour your second can only use the peaches

  3. Add in the butter, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and black pepper into the pot

  4. Heat on medium until all ingredients come together

  5. Reduce to medium-low and let simmer with a lid on until the peaches have almost taken on the color of the liquid and appear soft, your liquid should also have a distinct peach flavor which won't really happen if it’s not cooked all the way

  6. Preheat your oven to 350

  7. Lay your first crust on the bottom of the pan

  8. Pour the peaches into your pan, I recommend using a slotted spoon for this so that you get the peaches and not too much liquid

  9. Once you have your peaches in the pan, add a small amount of the liquid back

  10. Apply the top crust over everything

  11. Beat an egg and brush it over the top

  12. Bake until golden brown

PRO TIP: You can use any extra crust in the peach cobbler as dumplings :)


I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as my family and I do. Soul food is about more than just the ingredients written down, it’s about love and culture. Take your time, share with your family and friends, and most importantly enjoy yourself. <3


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