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lindagray

Origins

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The term soul food became popular in the 1960s and 1970s in the midst of the Black Power movement. One of the earliest written uses of the term is found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was published in 1965. LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) published an article entitled "Soul Food" and was one of the key proponents for establishing the food as a part of the Black American identity. Those who had participated in the Great Migration found within soul food a reminder of the home and family they had left behind after moving to unfamiliar northern cities. Soul food restaurants were Black-owned businesses that served as neighborhood meeting places where people socialized and ate together.

The origins of recipes considered soul food can be traced back to before slavery, as African (Mostly West African) and European (Mostly British) foodways were adapted to the environment of the region. Many of the foods integral to the cuisine originate from the limited rations given to slaves by their planters and masters. Slaves were typically given a peck of cornmeal and 3-4 pounds of pork per week, and from those rations come soul food staples such as cornbreadfried catfishbarbecued ribschitterlings, and neckbones. It has been noted that enslaved Africans were the primary consumers of cooked greens (collardsbeetsdandelionkale, and purslane) and sweet potatoes for a portion of US history.

Slaves needed to eat foods with high amounts of calories to balance out spending long days working in the fields. This led to time-honored soul food traditions like frying foods, breading meats and fishes with cornmeal, and mixing meats with vegetables (e.g. putting pork in collard greens). Eventually, this slave-invented style of cooking started to get adopted into larger Southern culture, as slave owners gave special privileges to slaves with cooking skills.

Impoverished whites and blacks in the South cooked many of the same dishes stemming from the soul tradition, but styles of preparation sometimes varied. Certain techniques popular in soul and Southern cuisines (i.e., frying meat and using all parts of the animal for consumption) are shared with ancient cultures all over the world, including China, Egypt, and Rome.

Introduction of soul food to northern cities such as Washington D.C. also came from private chefs in the White House. Many American Presidents have desired French cooking, and have sought after black chefs given their Creole background. The 23rd President of the United States Benjamin Harrison, and former first lady Caroline Harrison, took this same route when they terminated their French cooking staff for a black woman by the name of Dolly Johnson.

One famous relationship includes the bond formed between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Zephyr Wright. Wright became a great influence to Johnson in fighting for civil rights as he saw her treatment and segregation as they would travel throughout the south. Johnson even had Wright present at the signing of several civil rights laws. Lizzie McDuffie,a former maid and cook to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, assisted her boss during the 1936 election simply by making the president more relatable to black voters. With public awareness of black Americans preparing food in the presidential kitchen, this in turn helped to sway minority votes for hopeful presidential candidates such as, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. 

 

wikipedia.org

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