Food mirrors its history. Soul food, for example, is a cuisine steeped in tradition. It began in the humble kitchens of African-American slaves as a one-pot meal cooked on a shelf over the fireplace. They had little to cook with, but they had memories of their home and love for their family. And the food reflects that. To remind us of this rich culinary tradition, the Culinary Historians of Chicago created National Soul Food Month in June. So while we enjoy these delicious foods, let’s not forget the history.
National Soul Food Month - History
The current holiday tradition began
The Culinary Historians of Chicago sponsored the first National Soul Food Month.
Soul food grew in popularity
The term "soul food" attainted greater status after Alex Haley recorded Malcolm X’s life story. Soul food restaurants served as a place where people socialized and ate together.
Fried chicken came to America
Scottish immigrants had a tradition of deep frying chicken in fat. Many West African dishes were also made with chicken that was fried in palm oil.
America discovered okra
West African slaves who came to America brought okra with them. It quickly became a popular item served with rice, or in gumbo.
National Soul Food Month Activities
1. Eat at a soul food restaurant
Look up a well-reviewed restaurant in your area. We're pretty sure you will love the food!
2. Make some soul food for the whole family
Take your pick — smothered pork chops, fried chicken, boiled cabbage, southern potato salad, stuffed peppers, or peach cobbler. The list goes on and on.
3. Support soul food businesses
You can play a part in ensuring that African-American food traditions have a future.
4 Heartwarming Soul Food Facts
1. Humble beginnings
Cooks used their skills to turn cheap and unappealing cuts of meat into delicious meals.
2. All hail kale
We only recently recognized kale as a "super food." Soul food has depended on it for ages.
3. "Red" is a flavor
In a soul food restaurant, "red" means a drink — strawberry, cherry or tropical punch. No explanation required.
4. It is also for the vegan soul
Soul cuisine has embraced many vegan recipes that are spicy, healthy, and delicious! Historically, chefs used seasonal vegetables to cook dishes — with meat thrown in mainly for flavoring.
Why We Love National Soul Food Month
A. It keeps a culinary heritage alive
Even today dishes such as chitterlings, cornbread, and grits are cooked the traditional way. These recipes were handed down from generation to generation.
B. It celebrates the history behind the food
History almost always gets recorded in food. National Soul Food Month celebrates the origins of this special cuisine.
C. It reminds us to cook with love
Soul food does indeed have a "soul." It's food that is cooked from the heart to feed the whole family. We can all learn something from that.