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dumpling

Native American influence

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I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Indian influence in the development of African-American cuisine. One of the things I've always thought fascinating about food is the exchange of foods between cultures and how that usually develops into something new and unique. There were in areas so much connection like in Florida and other areas in the South so I'm wondering how much that influenced the cuisine.

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Hi Dumpling,

I love that name; that's what I used to call my son when he was small. Now he is six feet and two.

On to that Native-American and soul food connection; which was quite pervasive. Think corn right away, which gave rise to my favorite bread in the world, cornbread.

The thinking is that the slaves had used millet, barley, couscous, etc., back in Africa. Corn is indigenous to the Americas. The slaves got corn from the Native Americans, dried it, added water, baked it over hot coals, and this gave rise to cornbread.

And let's not forget grits, that other Southern delight; which is simply ground dried corn.

You can see other Native American influences in soul food dishes such as Succotash, a savory pot of lima beans and corn and tomato; in that other soul food dish, okra, tomato and corn; in corn pudding, and breads such as fry bread, which is a kind of fried biscuit eaten with onions.

And let's not forget barbecue. European settlers found Native Americans smoking and cooking meat on a frame over a fire in a hole in the ground. Over the years, African-Americans in the South turned barbecue into high art. Well, almost. I can get hyperbolic sometimes.

All of this makes food so exciting; so many different culture connections.

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