What is Soul Food?

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What is Soul Food?

All ethnic groups have their own language, food, and way of living. Some can even call their food, “soul food.” Soul food can be described as “food made with feeling and care,” but in America, soul food simply refers to African-American cuisine (A History of Soul Food). In Imamu Amiri Baraka’s essay, “Soul Food” he describes how shocked he was to read an article that stated how “African-Americans have no language and no characteristic food.” So he argued against that supposed fact. I too was shocked and am agreeing with Baraka’s argument. African-Americans have had soul food for hundreds of years, if anything that is all they have ever had. Since slaves had no control or choice in life, cooking became a way to express feelings, share love and nurture family and sorrow (Helton). Soul food is more that just food; it is history, tradition, and family.

Soul food dates back to the early 14th century during the time of African exploration. When Africans became slaves in America, they had to make do with the ingredients that were given to them (A History of Soul Food). Their meals of fresh vegetables that they were used to were now being replaced by the thrown away scrapes of food from the plantation house. Not long after, slaves began to refer to their food as “good times” food because after working long hours in the field or in the house, the evening meal was a time for families to get together (A History of Soul Food). During the meal, elders passed down oral history to the young ones and family and friends came to visit. Soul food was hearty nourishment that met the intense labor needs of working long days (Helton). Decades later, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, terms like “so...

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...It is the greatest feeling.

When I hear the words “soul food” I immediately think of the history, the traditions, and my family. On the other hand, those people who are not familiar with these terms; they consider it to be just food. Sure you might also think of hushpuppies, fried chicken, collard greens, grits and ribs, but do you know how and why they came about. Not many actually do. As Baraka concluded his essay he stated, “I guess a square is somebody who’s in Harlem and eats at Nedicks.” I can also agree with that statement. I can see those same squares everywhere else in America; they eat at McDonald’s.

Works Cited

1. A History of Soul Food. 13 March 2003.

2. Marilyn Helton. Soul Food History. 13 March 2003.
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