The Spirit of the South: Soul Food
February 23, 2021
The history of Soul food is rooted in African American history, all the way back to slavery and far into the present. Native Americans were the original progenitors of this style of food, as it relies on many native American staples, such as corn, grits, moonshine, and specific fruits.
The less surface level soul foods were also used by the Native Americans, such as pork brain, chitterlings (a.k.a “chitlins”), and pig’s feet etc. Africans influenced soul food during slavery via bring over cooking technique and staples such as rice and leafy greens. The flavors also got spicier as slaves would use native grown cayenne peppers to replicate the heat of African malagueta peppers.
Soul food remained a relatively closeted phenomenon up until the mid twentieth century, as civil rights brought black culture more and more to the surface. It was cheap, delicious, and easy to make in the south where it quickly grew into almost a life style for many African Americans.
There have been opponents of soul food as being a part of black culture, most notably a man by the name of Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam. He claimed that the Soul Foods consumed by the vast majority of the African American south were killing them, and to an extent, he could be right. He claimed that over consumption of fried, and often low quality ingredients would lead to rising rates of obesity and diabetes.
Despite this, soul food will remain culturally significant and will remain part of America for a long time because, well, it’s delicious.