Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Soul Food - The Food That Helped Build America

The food that helped build this nationWas born on Americas plantations,But we took what they gave usAnd used it to help save usNow we eat and enjoy it with elation.The legacy of soul food is bitter sweet in it's history. Born out of the throngs of slavery, soul food is now a multi-million dollar industry which has spawned restaurants, books, videos, TV cooking shows and more. Yes, soul food is not only an African-American treasure ... it's an American treasure.Soul food is an industry that has given birth to dozens of millionaires and created thousands of related businesses. All this coming from recipes, cooking techniques and seasonings handed down from generations 300-plus years long.Surprisingly many foods used in preparing soul food originated in Africa. It's still a mystery how the seeds got to the Americas. For example, okra, black-eyed peas, watermelon, yams and many leafy green vegetables which came from the continent of Africa are staples of soul food cooking today.To endure the sweltering southern days, always filled with long and back-breaking labor, the Black workers had to have food that was cheap, filling and provided the necessary energy. The ingredients of soul food provided those needs. Soul food is the food that helped build America, why? Because it helped the slaves that helped to build America work and survive the long grueling days.Ironically historians have proven the slaves ate a healthier diet than the slave masters judging by today's health standards. The slave masters and overseers stuffed themselves with foods excessively high in fat, calories and washed it down with rich alcohol. This rich diet, considered a rich man's diet, and like today often resulted in heart disease, obesity and diabetes.But as irony would have it the slaves had to settle for the food and ingredients the rich slave mater discarded. For example, cheap and often discarded vegetables, fruits, nuts and only had water to wash it down. In fact, the only times the slaves ate meat was usually on special occasions such as Christmas (provided they behaved during the week).Today African Americans celebrate with soul food, especially during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays. The cooks and want to-be cooks come out in every Black household during these holidays.Kwanzaa, a special cultural holiday celebrated by many African Americans, developed in the 1960's as a period for African Americans to reflect on their history and future contributions. The period of Kwanzaa runs from December 26 to January 1.A traditional Kwanzaa feast held on December 31 and consist of traditional soul food dishes. These soul food dishes include seafood gumbo, black-eye peas, collard greens, buttermilk cornbread, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, fried okra and more. Some traditions say these ingredients help bring the participants good fortune in the coming year.Like any valuable idea, soul food has been able to reinvent itself and adapt to changing times and conditions.Long criticized for it's unhealthy ingredients, such as the excessive use of fats, salt and unhealthy cooking techniques and ingredients.Today's soul food continues to adapt to healthier cooking techniques while maintaining the taste and satisfaction of traditional soul food. For example, using smoked turkey instead of the traditional fat-back to cook greens, black eyed peas and add flavor to other foods. In addition, pan frying with lighter oils or baking instead of deep-fat frying and eating smaller portions add to soul foods healthier appeal.A new generation of vegetarian soul food cookbooks, videos and classes continue to develop and grow across the country to meet the needs of growing numbers of people.ConclusionThe age of fast foods domination has resulted in a generation of overweight, inactive, junk food eating children. Many African Americans are looking back to the food that helped our race overcome the most staggering odds in recorded history.Yes, traditional home cooked soul food meals that helped the African American race overcome ... is starting to make a strong comeback!

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