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lindagray

Chitlins, Black-eyed Peas & Sweet Potato Pie

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  • 10. Chitlins

    chitterlings
    Image via Yelp/Jerome G.

    Without a doubt, chitlins (a.k.a. chitterlings) are the most controversial choice for this list, since they are the most divisive and misunderstood item on the soul-food plate. People either love them or hate them (count me on the "love" side) because of what they are (usually pig's intestines), or because of how they smell when being cleaned, cooked, or eaten. Regardless of the intense feelings, it's undeniable that chitlins have played an important role in the soul-food story. As early as the Middle Ages, the European gentry savored venison chitlins after a successful deer hunt, and in time, the intestines of domesticated animals like cows and pigs became a food enjoyed by rich and poor folks alike. In the antebellum South, both blacks and whites on the plantation prized chitlins after a fall hog-killing. African-American migrants took a love of chitlin-eating to urban areas outside of the South, and thanks to urban butchers and slaughterhouses, chitlins became a year-around treat. 

  • 9. Black-eyed Peas

    black-eyed-peas
    Image via Adrian Miller

    Black-eyed peas, actually a bean, have legendary status. Though native to West Africa, most people associate black-eyed peas with New Year's Day. Millions of African Americans have borrowed and transformed an old European superstition: that you can attain good luck when someone with dark eyes is the first to knock on your door on January 1st. Though the superstition doesn't have an analog in West Africa, black-eyed peas were traditionally eaten on auspicious occasions like the birth of twins or religious days honoring certain deities. When one gets a taste of some black-eyed peas bathing in a seasoned, smoky broth, one will understand why this dish was once considered a "food for the gods."

  • 8. Sweet Potato Pie

    sweet-potato-pie
    Image via Flickr/Southern Foodways Alliance

    Dessert was a foreign concept in pre-colonial West Africa. Even so, sweet potato pie became a classic soul-food staple. Enslaved West Africans accustomed to a traditional diet that included tropical yams found sweet potatoes to be a useful substitute. In the beginning, the popular dessert choice was a simple whole sweet potato roasted in embers of a dying fire. First, enslaved cooks eventually added some eggs, milk, and spices to mashed sweet potatoes. Once cooked, the new culinary creation was called a sweet-potato pone. In time, a bottom crust was baked underneath the pone. Sweet potato pie has an annual showdown with pumpkin pie as the dessert of choice on Thanksgiving. It's not a problem, though: With African Americans, sweet potato pie is undefeated.

    firstwefeast.com

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