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When you think of soul food, you might think of creamy macaroni and cheese, the smell of cayenne pepper, or bursting butter. And yet it is something more. This is a unique style of food that carries history, taste and, of course, soul. Often found in the southern states, soul food has become a popular cuisine in America and around the world. Originating from African cuisine, soul food brings people together and is a way to preserve black culture.

Because of its influence, June is recognized as National Soul Food Month, and here are five ways to celebrate it.

A Brief History of Soul Food

Soul food arose during one of the most grueling times for blacks. During slavery, enslaved people received meager rations such as rice, sweet potatoes, and cornmeal. Rarely were they given meat, fruit, or vegetables. However, they made up for this by combining the resulting leftovers with food that grew on the ground. Over time, many African Americans gained freedom, and the enslaved culinary style evolved into haute cuisine.

The name “Food for the Soul” comes from the importance of food for the body and soul. It lifts your spirit and fills your belly. The cuisine consists of staples such as cornbread, fried okra, breaded fish and black-eyed peas. Many other dishes have grown and expanded through various repetitions.

Food for the soul is often prepared during holidays, family gatherings and celebrations. Here are some ways to celebrate this month in or out of the kitchen.

one. Cook soul food for friends and family

While blacks still face racism and discrimination, the culture has advanced in many ways. This is an occasion to celebrate. Use the progress of the culture to celebrate with friends and family. You can even use this month to invite friends over, introduce them to the wealth of soul food and share some of its history.

2. Learn more about the history of Soul food.

The general history of soul food may be well known, but there are depths to that history waiting to be explored. To dive into this history lesson, you can start by watching a Netflix documentary series. High on a pig. In the series, chef and writer Steven Satterfield traces the origins of black food from Africa to some of the farthest corners of the southern states.

If you have already seen the movie, you can trace the history of soul food in your family. Start talking to your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts about their connection to soul food. What recipes did they grow up learning? What memories do they have because they all came together to taste food for the soul?

Diane Tillman, a foodie, wrote to BGN and shared her fond memories of soul food. “When people think of food for the soul, they always choose Mac with cheese or potato salad. My favorite soul food is grilled baked beans. My dad soaked beans, added bacon, seasonings, tomatoes, brown sugar, and molasses, and left them to simmer on the back stove for at least a day. And they always finished warming up in a corner on the grill. When you went to get a hot dog or a hamburger, you would look at the back of the pot and say, “Can I have a spoonful of these beans?” Life was great when your bun got soaked in that sauce and you dipped your dog in those beans.”

3. Eat at Soul food restaurant

While cooking traditional meals at home can be a wonderful experience, there is nothing better than cooking. You can try how the chef has expanded the flavors of your favorite dish. Many Soul food restaurants in the United States are waiting for you to try them. Here is a short list to help you get started:

Martha Lou’s Kitchen: This modest restaurant located in Charleston, South Carolina has been around for over 30 years. This women’s business began with Martha Lou Gadsden, who grew up learning about the restaurant business. Now Gadsden, along with her daughters and granddaughters, has created a “come as you are” place where you are guaranteed delicious food.

Sue’ Soul Food: This restaurant brings southern beauty to the western United States. Located in Arizona, this is a true soul food restaurant serving greens, smoked ribs and even a peach cobbler. Sue’s, relatively new to soul food, opened its doors in 2020, shortly after losing the owner’s sister, Sue. In memory of a lost loved one, the restaurant has become a place that caters to every part of society. They open their doors to everyone, regardless of economic status, by taking EBT and sharing leftover food with the homeless population.

If you’re worried that you won’t be able to find soul food in your state, worry no more. Eat this, not this, published an article listing Soul food restaurants in each state. Yes, even in less populated states like Alaska and Kansas.

4. Support a Soul food restaurant or catering service

Often, foods with African influences are underestimated when compared to Italian or French cuisine. That’s why it’s important to support Soul food businesses and restaurants. The obvious way is to go out to eat at a restaurant, but there are other ways to show support. Using the power of social networks, you can share your experience of visiting a particular restaurant or leave a review about it.

To celebrate Soul food even more, instead of treating your next event to Subway sandwiches or vegetable trays, try Soul food catering.

5. Create a Soul food event

A soul meal event doesn’t always have to include food. (But much more fun if it is.) You can use your platform, whether at school or in the workplace, to educate others and share with others the importance of soul food.

Tanorria Askew, the personal chef emailed BGN and shared what soul food means to her. “Soul food is the glue of the black community. It not only nourishes our bodies, but also nourishes our souls, creating an opportunity for us to come together and be vulnerable, to share and celebrate with each other. Food is a great bond, and soul food keeps the black community connected to our ancestors.”

IG/F/T/P: @tanorriastable

Whether you choose this month, next month, or any other month, make sure you find a way to celebrate soul food. Whether it’s learning about its history or supporting Soul food’s business, you’re helping to keep a piece of history alive.

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