What is Soul Food?
Soul food has often been defined as the traditional foods of the African-American culture. For centuries, African-Americans have introduced their favorite foods to the world at large. Although the origins of soul food can be traced back to Africa, through the years many cultures have contributed to the soul food recipes that we love to eat today. Native Americans can be credited with introducing corn products to the culture, Spaniards lent their knowledge of different spices, and of course the slaves were influenced by what their European slaveowners brought to the table.
My Family’s Recipes
When I think of soul food, southern food and homestyle cooking comes to mind, like the flaky fried chicken my Mama used to make. Everything Mama and Poppy (my father’s parents) cooked for us was soul food. Pancakes and sausage, barbecue brisket, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, candied yams, and rice with butter. This set of grandparents were from the Central Texas area, Columbus, Smithville, and later San Antonio, which may explain why their repetoire included chili, hot tamales and beef enchiladas.
On the other hand, tummy-warming creole-based dishes that my Mimi (my mother’s mother) cooked was also soul food. Okra with tomatoes, gumbo, courtboullion, bread pudding, tea cakes, boudin.This side of the family was originally from Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas. Fresh seafood–fried shrimp and catfish, oysters and other treats from the nearby gulf coast was often on the menu.
As it often happens when two families merge, I also adopted my husband’s family’s soul food recipes. It turns out that Northeast Texans have a few different items on their menus–hot water cornbread, blackberry cobbler, green tomato relish–to name a few.