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A Plate of Hope: The Significance of Soul Food during the Holidays  
Published November 17, 2022

 

 

Post & Beam Shrimp and Grits with beef bacon, peppers, and shrimp butter (courtesy Photo)

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s wouldn’t be complete without soul food, a dish carrying hope and love for generations. The tradition of soul food begins with enslaved Africans; passing down the spirit of celebration amid their conditions, by creating dishes that brought joy into their household.

Due to the restriction that fell upon their education; the enslaved community would pass down the recipes orally for years—each carrying a sacred way to make fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, candied yams, sweet cornbread, ham, and collard greens.

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African-derived produce was abundantly cultivated, including okra, sweet potatoes, melons, collard and mustard greens, turnips, cabbage, and beans.

Soul food dishes have African influences, particularly those from West and Central Africa. Numerous soul food dishes have a high level of heat, and many of the ingredients used in them reflect this effect; different peppers and spices are used to enhance the cuisine.

Dulans; Black-eyed peas, collard greens, and sweet potatoes (Courtesy photo)

 

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There are established similarities between West African culinary traditions and soul culinary dishes.  Parallel to how yams are consumed in West Africa, sweet potatoes are popular in the United States; West Africans use fufu to sop up stews, and Black Americans frequently eat cornbread.

Soul food for Black culture—during the Civil Rights struggle—gave rise to the term in the 1960s. Soul cuisine is intentional; as a warm comfort food, it includes the tradition of bonding over cooking—a feeling that has been passed down through many generations.

When African Americans from the South went to urban areas such as Chicago and New York City, soul food culture expanded across the country. They took the foods and traditions of the Southern United States, where they were enslaved, with them.

 

Harold and Belle’s Holiday menu food overhead shot (Courtesy)

it involves the customs of a passed heritage—a sentiment to finding hope within the collective community.

The phrase appeared for the first time in print in 1964, at a time when “Black pride” was on the rise, and many components of African American culture, particularly soul music, were appreciated for their contributions to the American way of life.

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Black Americans have been passing down savory, delectable recipes for more than 400 years, being a significant mark on numerous important occasions.

It is a cuisine that is immensely rich in culture, tradition, and legacy due to the many various peoples who contributed to it, and it is constantly developing into something new.

Many of our enslaved forefathers passed down the spirit of festivity despite their circumstances by inventing meals that brought joy into their homes.

For more soul food recipes, check out the Taste of Soul Cook Book! Visit https://lasentinel.net/shop/taste-of-soul-cookbook for more!

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