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lindagray

Cultural relevance

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Soul food originated in the southern region of the US and is consumed by African-Americans across the nation. Traditional soul food cooking is seen as one of the ways enslaved Africans passed their traditions to their descendants once they were brought to the US, and is a cultural creation stemming from slavery and Native American and European influences. Recipes considered soul food are popular in the South due to the accessibility and affordability of the ingredients, as well as the proximity that African-Americans and white Americans maintained during periods of slavery and reconstruction. Scholars have noted that while white Americans provided the material culture for soul food dishes, the cooking techniques found in many of the dishes have been visibly influenced by the enslaved Africans themselves. Dishes derived by slaves consisted of many vegetables and grains because slave owners felt more meat would cause the slave to become lethargic with less energy to tend to the crops. The bountiful vegetables that were found in Africa, were substituted in dishes down south with new leafy greens consisting of dandelion, turnip, and beet greens. Pork, more specifically Hog became introduced into several dishes in the form of cracklins from the skin, pig's feet, chitterlings, and lard used to increase the fat intake into vegetarian dishes. Spices such as thyme, and bay leaf blended with onion and garlic gave dishes their own characteristics.  Figures such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Elijah Muhammad, and Dick Gregory played notable roles in shaping the conversation around soul food. Muhammad and Gregory opposed soul food because they felt it was unhealthy food and was slowly killing African-Americans. They saw soul food as a remnant of oppression and felt it should be left behind. Many African-Americans were offended by the Nation of Islam’s rejection of pork as it is a staple ingredient used to flavor many dishes. Stokely Carmichael also spoke out against soul food, claiming that it was not true African food due to its colonial and European influence. Despite this, many voices in the Black Power Movement saw soul food as something African-Americans should take pride in, and used it to distinguish African-Americans from white Americans. Proponents of soul food embraced the concept of it, and used it as a counterclaim to the argument that African-Americans had no culture or cuisine.

The magazine Ebony Jr! was important in transmitting the cultural relevance of soul food dishes to middle-class African-American children who typically ate a more standard American diet.

Soul food is frequently found at religious rituals and social events such as funerals, fellowship, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in the Black community.

Soul food has been the subject of many popular culture creations such as the 1997 film, then turned television series Soul Food, as well the eponymous 1995 rap album released by Goodie Mob. In 2013, American rapper Schoolboy Q released a single titled “Collard Greens”.

wikipedia.org

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