JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Vivid Hues: Stories of Black History shares the origins of Soul food with the help of student artist, Ada Madison of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts as famed chef, Kenny Gilbert explains its roots.
"Soul food to me is simply family," Gilbert said. "The spirit of breaking bread of what you have in the moment that is prepared from memory and tradition. Cleaning collard greens or snapping/shelling peas. Pulling green tomatoes from the vine from the garden then slicing and soaking in buttermilk and spices to then dredge in cornmeal to fry up. Soul food is a warm hug from grandma, where that love transports to the food."
Soul food's origins were whipped up in the deep south. Low quality food rations given to the enslaved, churned into meals that would preserve African food traditions to this day.
It shaped how Americans eat with staple recipes rooted in survival, connecting the past to our present. Rice was among the crops taken from Africa by slave traders to feed the enslaved during the middle passage then later grown on plantations. One pot recipes like jambalaya similar to jollof rice, popular in West African countries are a staple in African dishes.
On slave ships okra made its way to the Americas. It's an ingredient in gumbo usually served fried in the Deep South. The cuts of pork least desired including feet, internal organs and the head were given to the enslaved. Traditional African cooking, a combination of seasonings, hot red peppers and vinegar helped to cover up the poor flavor.
Collard greens were boiled in pork fat and seasoned with available vegetables. The juices left behind known as "potlikker" sopped up with cornbread.
Soul food contains an important history that connects Black culture to its African roots.