Soul food is that cuisine you find in the Deep South that was left by millions of African Americans during the Great Migration when they relocated to the West, Midwest and North. The immigrant cuisine is a fusion of traditional foods from the Americas, Western Europe, and West Africa. While they have the same African heritage, South Carolina and Georgia coastline’s low country cuisine and Louisiana’s Creole cuisine are not at all similar. Here are answers to a few questions you may have about soul food.

Where does the term originate from?

While it seems logical that the term was invented in the 1960s, at a time of strong black cultural expression and identity, it has actually been used by African Americans since the 1950s. Of course, “soul” was originally associated with gospel music, a sound that was becoming more prominent in jazz. In fact, “soul” was so popular as an adjective that it began to be used in numerous aspects of black culture.

How does southern food compare to soul food?

Much confusion exists in this area, and understandably so. After all, they share cooking techniques and ingredients. Performance is the biggest difference between the two. The flavours used in soul food tend to be more intense and are usually sweeter, spicier, saltier, and fatter than Southern food. Soul food used to be distinctive for its use of variety meats like turkey necks, oxtails, and ham hocks.

How does southern food compare to soul food?
How does southern food compare to soul food?

Is there only one type of soul food?

Three sub-cuisines have derived from traditional soul food. One is known as “down home healthy”, which uses sugar alternatives, and substitutes lard for vegetable oil or margarine, and pork for smoked turkey. The opposite to that is “upscale soul”, which uses numerous extravagant ingredients, such as heritage meat, heirloom vegetables, and duck fat. Then there’s “vegan soul food”, which is a surprising one, considering the amount of meat typically found in soul food. Having said that, African American slaves largely ate a vegetarian diet with small ounces of smoked, salted, or dried meat for seasoning.

Why do people criticise soul food?

There are two main reasons why people criticise soul food. One is that there’s a belief that says if you eat this food regularly, you will die. This is due to visions of overflowing plates of syrupy-sweet and greasily-fried food. When you think about the foods recommended to us by nutritionists, however, they’re the very foods that are enjoyed by fans of soul food: sweet potatoes, legumes, fish, and dark, leafy greens. It all comes down to preparation. Meats can be baked rather than fried, and meat doesn’t always have to be added to vegetables, either. The other criticism is that soul food is “poverty food” or “slave food”. However, many of the foods within soul cuisine were once prestige food or celebratory food. Henry V11 binged on sweet potato pie, and Queen Elizabeth 1 and King Richard 111 even enjoyed macaroni and cheese.