What is Soul Food?
Written by Tess Hurlburt and Kamiya Willoughby
An explanation of what soul food is to SoulNia
As a business that specializes in soul food, we often hear the question "What is soul food?" or "What makes this dish specifically soul food". The answer is more complex than most folk think- which we believe is a true reflection of the cuisine itself.
Soul food is found food:
Because this cuisine is rooted in the African-American diaspora and the long standing history of slavery in the US, soul food was birthed from foragers. Primarily brought to america from West Africa, African slaves turned to their environment to supplement their lacking rations provided by slave owners. This meant foraging for root vegetables, leafy greens, and wild grains and legumes. A huge influence on early soul food cuisine came from First Nation Natives; who helped instruct slaves on edible plants in their new environment and introduced cornbread to slaves; which has become a staple to soul food.
Long story short- African slaves were given such meager/inconsistent rations, that meat based dishes were few and far between. Spare parts of undesirable meat were most common, which is where we get dishes like chitlins or ingredients like lard or pigs feet in slow cooked stews. This fact, paired with vegetarian cooking traditions brought from West Africa, meant that the birth of soul food came from majority plant based diets. However, the reason we strive to adhere to vegetarian dishes deserves a deeper dive.
With every event we do, SoulNia is trying to re-educate the public about these vegetarian roots, while simultaneously breaking down long standing stereotypes about soul food as a cuisine. We believe that soul food really is a reflection of the diversity and history of America; and more than that, soul food is a glorious celebration of Black Americans.
At SoulNia, we strive to adhere to these foundations. We insist on using seasonal and local ingredients as often and as much as we can. We fight prejudice and preconceived notions about soul food by feeding our patrons dishes that fill them up but won't weigh them down. We welcome you to our table, in true soul food fashion, like generations of black mamas have been doing since their ancestors were forcibly brought here.