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If I were to buy one book on Soul Food, what should I get?


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That is a loaded term and one without clear definition. . Edna B. Lewis comes from a Gullah tradition. She was a spectacular woman  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Lewis  Her friend Scott Peacock - no slouch either https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Peacock  and check out the Southern Foodways Alliance.  https://www.southernfoodways.org/gravy/magic-city-poetry/

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I agree with @heidih.  It is so hard to distinguish between "southern" and "soul food".  Is African American food stuff that servants and enslaved folk cooked for white folk?  Or food they cooked for themselves?  Both?  Is soul food and "country" or poor white folk food the same?  It is a BIG subject.  I'll add to @heidih's good suggestions reading what Michael W. Twitty has to say and recommend.  He's a wonderful, insightful writer about food, race, and history.  

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11 hours ago, heidih said:

That is a loaded term and one without clear definition.  

 

 

Therein lies part of my problem.  And that I know sod-all about the topic to begin with.  I have familiarity with a couple of other styles of Southern USA cooking, NOLA Creole, and Lowcountry, but not this one. 

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This is an interesting list:

 

https://www.southernkitchen.com/articles/eat/8-best-black-southern-cookbooks

 

This list must have been published before Toni Tipton Martin's Jubilee, since it includes her earlier book. The Edna Lewis/ Peacock book was my first intro to some of these dishes. I don't believe you can find just one book that will do it. Not that one book on anything will do.

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Toni Tipton-Martin's recent book, Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook, is certainly one to consider.   Jubilee draws heavily on the vast collection of African American cookbooks that Tipton-Martin shared in The Jemima Code.  The essays that begin each chapter and recipe header notes share her extensive research in a very readable way.  Original recipes from those old cookbooks pop up here and there throughout the book.  It's a pleasure to read and to cook from. 

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1 hour ago, Katie Meadow said:

 I don't believe you can find just one book that will do it. Not that one book on anything will do.

 

Thank you for the list!  And, indeed, no one book on anything will do, but I want to start somewhere. :)

 

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I also wonder what your experience with the style of food is.That can color how we perceive new dishes. This Eater list from my town is pretty good. Some more Creole but some super "soul food" classics.  Our Crenshaw district (think Nipsey and where I was born) are old school Southern black. https://la.eater.com/maps/best-southern-soul-food-restaurants-los-angeles-map-guide

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41 minutes ago, heidih said:

I also wonder what your experience with the style of food is.That can color how we perceive new dishes. This Eater list from my town is pretty good. Some more Creole but some super "soul food" classics.  Our Crenshaw district (think Nipsey and where I was born) are old school Southern black. https://la.eater.com/maps/best-southern-soul-food-restaurants-los-angeles-map-guide

 

 

I confess I have not much experience with authentic soul food, entirely due to lack of access (the furthest South I've ever lived is DC, and that was only for three years, and most of my ventures to the South have been to NOLA), but I've been curious about the cuisine for some time. 

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37 minutes ago, Dante said:

 

 

I confess I have not much experience with authentic soul food, entirely due to lack of access (the furthest South I've ever lived is DC, and that was only for three years, and most of my  ventures to the South have been to NOLA), but I've been curious about the cuisine for some time. 

 

Well stretchy sweat pants work better than belted chinos if you are sampling ;) 

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Soul food is cooking from the soul. Taking what you got and making it good so you can feed those you love and make them happy and yes, "those you love" most certainly can include yourself. But I'm pretty certain from the follow-up posts that you're looking for stereotypical African American cooking, especially that with roots in the south. The thing is, what's been said above is absolutely true. That cooking isn't much different than what anybody else in the south will have as their culinary roots. There are introductions to the cuisine that came with the people brought over into slavery but they caught on pretty much across the board in the south, not just among the slaves. There are also things that probably stayed predominantly among the poor, but that too without particular racial distinction. What you see in a Chicago "soul food restaurant", you will quite often find on the hot food line in almost every convenience store in the south and definitely on the dinner tables of a large portion of the people... with no racial lines. 

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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7 hours ago, blue_dolphin said:

Toni Tipton-Martin's recent book, Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook, is certainly one to consider.   Jubilee draws heavily on the vast collection of African American cookbooks that Tipton-Martin shared in The Jemima Code.  The essays that begin each chapter and recipe header notes share her extensive research in a very readable way.  Original recipes from those old cookbooks pop up here and there throughout the book.  It's a pleasure to read and to cook from. 

My daughter got me this one for my birthday this year, I like it a lot. 

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That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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4 hours ago, MokaPot said:

@Dante, is/are there one or two dishes, in particular, that you're interested in? Maybe that would help.

 

No one in particular, just something I want to explore in general. See how it diverges from the other Southern styles I'm more familiar with. 

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4 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

 . But I'm pretty certain from the follow-up posts that you're looking for stereotypical African American cooking, especially that with roots in the south.  

 

in essence, and I had figured there would be a lot of overlap with other Southern styles, and that it had become more cultural than racial as it spread.  But I still see "Soul Food" described as its own entity, which made me curious about it.  

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7 hours ago, heidih said:

I also wonder what your experience with the style of food is.That can color how we perceive new dishes. This Eater list from my town is pretty good. Some more Creole but some super "soul food" classics.  Our Crenshaw district (think Nipsey and where I was born) are old school Southern black. https://la.eater.com/maps/best-southern-soul-food-restaurants-los-angeles-map-guide

 

As an aside, Toni Tipton-Martin grew up in LA and speaks a lot about the experience in both of her books.

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9 minutes ago, dtremit said:

 

As an aside, Toni Tipton-Martin grew up in LA and speaks a lot about the experience in both of her books.

 

Thanks - have not checked the books. I am gonna move in a while and am trying not to acquire more stuff. I look forward to your eating adventures. .One of my fond memories is my kid texting me from Roscoes about how great chicken and waffles is. They may have been drunk after DJing at  club. https://www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com/

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19 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

Soul food is cooking from the soul. Taking what you got and making it good so you can feed those you love and make them happy and yes, "those you love" most certainly can include yourself. But I'm pretty certain from the follow-up posts that you're looking for stereotypical African American cooking, especially that with roots in the south. The thing is, what's been said above is absolutely true. That cooking isn't much different than what anybody else in the south will have as their culinary roots. There are introductions to the cuisine that came with the people brought over into slavery but they caught on pretty much across the board in the south, not just among the slaves. There are also things that probably stayed predominantly among the poor, but that too without particular racial distinction. What you see in a Chicago "soul food restaurant", you will quite often find on the hot food line in almost every convenience store in the south and definitely on the dinner tables of a large portion of the people... with no racial lines. 

I would add to the above that various editions of the JOY OF COOKING include some great recipes (and even some technique description) for specific dishes.

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I agree with the previous posters -- soul food covers such a wide variety and is so regional in nature it'd be hard to recommend one volume. That said, I can highly recommend The Taste Of Country Cooking, here. It's more Eastern in nature; soul food is somewhat different west of the Appalachians than east of it.

 

A great example of soul foods west of the Appalachians are two cookbooks from the iconic Memphis soul food restaurant, Alcenia's, written by chef BJ Chester-Tamayo. Healing the Soul is chiefly desserts; Soul to Soul is chiefly main dishes and sides. I dearly love Alcenia's. What the woman can do with sweet potatoes is beyond belief. Cookbooks are available through her website.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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And, to be honest, I'm betting that most of us responding are NOT African Americans.  That can't help but limit our responses.  Because TRUE soul food is found in homes first.  I was lucky enough to grow up summers in NC next door to a black family.  My granddaddy had an unused house on his farm and liked to let young families use it for a while in order to save towards building/buying a home of their own.  The men would help him with some farm projects and the women with house work.  One of the families that lived there for a few years when I was a little girl was African American.  My grandmother worked in an office and my grandfather had the cattle farm and his own machine shop, so I spent a lot of time with that family.  The food was very, very simple.  Pork and vegetable forward.  I remember a lot of hog jowls and fatback.  And stacks of white bread on the table to wrap around a piece of meat.  Other than tomatoes in summer, I don't remember any vegetable served raw or "crisp-tender".  No casseroles either.  And that was a big difference between white and black.  The white families that I ate with in small town NC ate a LOT of casseroles in the 1960's.  Even at tent revivals, I never saw casseroles.  Lots of pork, a few folks would bring fried or baked chicken, pots of long-cooked vegetables, cornbread, biscuits, not a lot of desserts - maybe a few pies or cakes.  All of it slightly moist with condensation from being covered with foil during the revival - you didn't eat until you were saved.  But these memories are limited, too.  I was a little white girl spending a little time with ONE black family and a VERY little time with a black church community.  

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