I love Soul Food.
What is soul food? Well, according to Merriam Webster:
"Soul Food. noun : the type of food typically eaten by African-Americans in the southern U.S."
This definition, though factually accurate, hardly captures the depth and beautiful complexity of this true American cuisine. Researchers, food scholars, and soul food lovers (not mutually exclusive) have produced treatises on this American heritage cuisine and, anecdotally, African-American history. Several cookbooks have been published and re-published – some forgotten or ignored – penned in the voice of the esteemed African-American cooks and culinary masters, which speak to the soul of soul food. American soul food has been lauded and appropriated, while also mocked and condemned.
At some point I began to see my heritage foods as harmful and started following a restrictive diet, relying heavily on meat alternatives. But my health did not improve and I was eventually diagnosed with high blood pressure. After some reflection, I decided to cut out processed, carry out, and pre-packaged foods, and make most of my meals at home with fresh and/or minimally processed ingredients. I drew on my experiences learning from my grandmother, mother, dad, aunties and extended family of brilliant cooks and gardeners. I also drew extensively upon my time living in France, and world travels enriched with impromptu cooking lessons from friends all over the world. My cooking came alive again, I enjoyed being in the kitchen and feeding my family, and love poured into every meal.
At the core of all of these recipes are heritage soul food ingredients: okra, sweet potatoes, corn, greens, and beans. I look for ways to use every fresh fruit and vegetable available at the farm or farm market, and I get my meats and dairy as local as possible from folks I've come to know.
I've started introducing you to farmers and chefs I know, as well as helpful information I learn about everything from what is a panko to how to ripen green tomatoes.
I add a healthy dose of self-care and some anecdotes about managing stress and ease of living. And fried chicken.