An Exploration Of Soul Food | Cooking With Jade

An Exploration Of Soul Food

An Exploration Of Soul Food
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Anyone that knows me knows that I love soul food. Collard greens and candied yams are just some of my favorite traditional soul food dishes? Yes, please! In honor of Black History month and because – frankly – I’m hungry, I thought I would explore this flavorful food tradition.


minority woman cooking


The Origins Of Soul Food

What we now call “soul food” originated in the Deep South—particularly the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. It was here that enslaved African-Americans made the most of the meager rations (often scraps) that they were given. This is one of the reasons that soul food tends to be so heavily seasoned: these enslaved peoples had to find creative ways to turn food waste into delicious meals. Case in point: Barbecued Ribs. It is hard to find a meat eater who doesn’t love this soul food staple, but that wasn’t always the case. Ribs were originally scrap cuts, deemed unfit for consumption. But cooked low and slow, and flavored with bold rubs and sauces, they became an iconic American dish.


black family cooking


Soul Food’s African Roots

Many classic soul food dishes are rooted in African cooking—particularly West Africa, where the transatlantic slave trade routes began. Black-eyed peas, for instance, made the journey to America (and the Caribbean) from West Africa. Similarly, collard greens were imported to the south from Africa (it is believed that they first made their appearance in Jamestown, VA). Other soul food staples with African roots include okra and the rice that is found in many soul food dishes. Similarly, the use of peppers (such as cayenne) for seasoning reflects African food traditions.


Soul Food Migrates

While soul food started in the Deep South (via West Africa) it is now enjoyed all over the U.S. This is largely due to the Great Migration: the large-scale movement of African-Americans from the Deep South to Northern industrial cities in the early and middle 20th century. In these new Northern cities, soul food became a way for African-American migrants to preserve their cooking traditions and remember the homes they left behind. It also became a point of connection for African-Americans around the country. That is one of the great things about soul food: its amazing capacity to bring people together.


african american woman cooking


What’s In A Name?

Of course, there are lots of foods out there that nourish the soul, so why is this particular cuisine called “soul food?” One of the first documented uses of the term appeared in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965. In it, Malcolm X wrote that soul food represents “southernness and commensality.” It is worth noting that the term “soul” as a descriptor has its origins in the jazz culture of the 1930s and 40s. Black jazz musicians coined the term “soul music” to differentiate their sound from watered-down appropriations of their style. “Soul,” then, became a popular designation for any authentic expression of African-American culture and style. This is what separates soul food from so many other comfort foods: its roots in Africa and the Black communities of the Deep South.


My favorite Soul Food dishes are listed below


  • Mac & Cheese –
  • Black-Eyed Peas –
  • Peach Cobbler –

Happy Black History Month!

To check out Soul Food from different countries, check out the link here –

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