Soul Food History

collard greens - soul food history

In the early 60’s and 70’s, a very interesting period in soul food history, soul food as we know it was the traditional food of black Americans and it  was very popular. Types of soul foods were candied yams, okra, fried chicken, pig’s feet, chitlins, cornbread, collard greens with ham hocks and black-eyed peas.  

Today, soul food preparation has changed.  Black Americans are becoming increasingly health conscious, thus, they are avoiding foods with high levels of fat and cholesterol, and increasing their intake of fruit, vegetables, and fiber.  

Black Americans are still in the kitchen cooking today, but now they are successful owners and managers of thriving restaurants. Today cooking is done on electric, gas and microwave ovens.

What we know as “soul food” is the descendant of slave cooking. It’s  the brilliant masterpiece that derived from want. Slave cooking is distinct in its use of greens, beans, and the parts of the pig rejected at the plantation house: pig’s knuckles, ears, tripe, hog maws.  

These parts were added to the corn rations, which were sometimes the only food allotted to the slaves.  The meager pantry was further supplemented by wild game and fish pulled from the streams.  Squirrel and possum figure among the meats used, catfish, trout, and shrimp among the fish.

Many soul food recipes require the use of only one pot, as the time for cooking and the money for its preparation tools were both hard to come by.

In the past, African American foods were prepared in several different ways, and since there were no refrigerators or freezers years ago, meat was smoked in a smokehouse to make sure it wouldn’t spoil.  

Meats were barbecued, roasted, boiled, or made into stews.  Feathered wildlife was prepared by frying, baking, roasting, making broths, or simmering to form gravies.  

In the rivers and streams, there were lots of fish and other water life that could be eaten. Vegetables were boiled or fried and drinks were made from the juices of fruits.

Feathered wildlife was prepared by frying, baking, roasting, making broths, or simmering to form robust gravies.  In the rivers and streams, there were lots of fish and other water life that could be eaten as well.

Meals were cooked on open fires using black kettles or were barbecued in open pits. The people who cooked just knew how to do it.  They didn’t need to follow a recipe.

Back in the days of slavery, slaves were often forced to eat the scraps their slave masters did not want. They turned these scraps into delicious dishes. Some of these foods popularly known today as black-eyed peas, cornbread, bread pudding, greens, sweet potato pie, and chitlins.

From this tradition (which is simply soul food history) came many delicious African American foods.