Getting to Know Soul Food

Soul Food

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

Origin of Soul food can be traced back to the time when slavery existed in the United States. It is a cuisine with a long political history; it is also a testament to African-American creativity. People have discovered what an indescribable delight soul food can be, and it is amazing that it all started with scraps, leftovers, and the less desirable vegetables and cuts of meat.

Soul Food Over Two Centuries Ago

In “Soul Food”, a Brief History”, the African American Registry reviews the beginnings of soul food back: “Soul Food is a term used for an ethnic cuisine, food traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans of the Southern United States. Many of the various dishes and ingredients included in “soul food” are also regional meals and comprise a part of other Southern US cooking, as well. The style of cooking originated during American slavery. African slaves were given only the “leftover” and “undesirable” cuts of meat from their masters (while the white slave owners got the meatiest cuts of ham, roasts, etc.).”

Apart from the leftovers from the slave owners’ tables, the slaves also expanded their food choices by growing their own vegetables. The African American Registry adds, “We also had only vegetables grown for ourselves. After slavery, many, being poor, could afford only off-cuts of meat, along with offal. Farming, hunting and fishing provided fresh vegetables, fish and wild game, such as possum, rabbit, squirrel and sometimes waterfowl. Africans living in America at the time (and since) more than made do with the food choices we had to work with…”

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