The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Soul food

For the movie, see Soul Food

Soul food describes food traditionally eaten by African Americans of the Southern United States. The term soul food also applies to white Southern US cuisine. The style of cooking originated during the time of slavery, when slaves were given only the "leftover" and "undesirable" cuts of meat (while the white slave owners got the meatiest cuts of ham, roasts, etc.), and had only the vegetables they grew themselves. Later, after slavery, many, being poor, could only afford the off-cuts of meat, along with offal, catfish, chickens they raised, and only certain easily-raised or low-cost vegetables.

Dishes or ingredients common in soul food include:

  • Black-eyed peas (cooked separately or with rice, as hoppin' john)
  • Lima beans (sometimes mistakenly known as "butter beans," and usually cooked in butter)
  • Catfish (dredged in seasoned cornbread and fried)
  • Chicken (often fried with cornbread breading or seasoned flour)
  • Chitterlings, or chitlins (the cleaned and prepared intestines of hogs, slow-cooked and often eaten with vinegar and hot sauce; sometimes parboiled, then battered and fried)
  • Chow-chow (a spicy, homemade pickle relish sometimes made with okra, corn, cabbage, green tomatoes and other vegetables; commonly used to top black-eyed peas and otherwise as a condiment and side dish)
  • Collard greens (usually cooked with ham hocks, often combined with other greens)
  • Cornbread (a short bread often baked in an iron skillet, sometimes seasoned with bacon fat)
  • Chicken fried steak (beef deep fried in flour or batter, usually served with gravy)
  • Cracklins (commonly known as pork rinds and sometimes added to cornbread batter)
  • Fatback (fatty, cured, salted pork used to season meats and vegetables)
  • Fried fish (any of several varieties of fish – whiting fish, catfish, Censored page, bluegills – dredged in seasoned cornmeal and deep fried)
  • Fried ice cream (Ice Cream deep frozen coated with cookies and fried)
  • Ham hocks (smoked, used to flavor vegetables and legumes)
  • Hog maws (or hog jowls , sliced and usually cooked with chitterlings)
  • Hot sauce (a condiment of cayenne peppers, vinegar, salt, garlic and other spices often used on chitterlings, fried chicken and fish – not the same as "Tabasco sauce", which has heat, but little flavor)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Mashed potatoes (usually with butter and condensed milk)
  • Milk and bread (a "po' folks' dessert-in-a-glass" of slightly crumbled cornbread, buttermilk and sugar)
  • Mustard greens (usually cooked with ham hocks, often combined with other greens)
  • Neck bones (beef neck bones seasoned and slow cooked)
  • Okra (African vegetable eaten fried in cornmeal or stewed, often with tomatoes, corn, onions and hot pepers)
  • Pigs' feet (slow-cooked like chitterlings, sometimes pickled and, like chitterlings, often eaten with vinegar and hot sauce)
  • Ribs (usually pork, but can also be beef ribs)
  • Rice
  • chicken livers
  • chicken gizzards
  • hoghead cheese
  • Succotash (originally, a Native American dish of yellow corn and butter beans, usually cooked in butter)
  • Sweet potatoes (often parboiled, sliced and then baked, using sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter or margarine, commonly called "candied yams"; also pureed and baked into pies)
  • Turnip greens (usually cooked with ham hocks, often combined with other greens)
  • Yams (not actually yams, but sweet potatoes; see sweet potatoes)

While soul food originated in the South, soul food restaurants – from fried chicken and fish "shacks" to upscale dining establishments – are in virtually every African-American community in the nation, especially in cities with large African American populations, such as Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Traditionally, as noted above, soul food is cooked and seasoned with pork products, and fried dishes are usually cooked with pork/animal fat (lard). Unfortunately, frequent consumption of cooking with these ingredients often contributes to disproportionately high occurrences of obesity, hypertension, cardiac/circulatory problems and/or diabetes in African-Americans, often resulting in a shortened lifespan. More modern methods of cooking soul food include using more healthful alternatives for frying (vegetable oil or canola oil) and cooking/stewing using smoked turkey instead of pork.

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 14:34:00
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55