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Christin Urso / Spoon
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

There is nothing I love better than food. It’s a way to share your culture, show someone you love them, nourish your body and soul, all the while bringing family and friends together.

Photo by Eloise Ambursley from Unsplash
In honor of Black History Month, I decided to investigate soul food. I love how the name reminds us that food does not need to be a source of stress calorie-wise, but something to make you happy. The term originated in the 60s as a part of black pride to celebrate African American contribution to American culture. The style of cooking originated during slavery in the South, incorporating locally grown food and the lesser quality foods from the wealthy landowner owners’ tables. Food preparation techniques integrates West African, Western European, and American styles and ingredients together. 

Typically, dishes included pork, the offal parts of pigs, and Crisco oil, which is used in many fried preparations. Many poor Southerners ate similar food, but the style of soul food is unique to African American culture and traveled with them as they spread across the country following emancipation. Now soul food is enjoyed by all cultures as both informal and upscale restaurants serve these delicious homey dishes. 

Here are some of the top foods in soul food cuisine: 

One important ingredient is corn, normally used to make hush puppies, hominy grits, and cornbread. Biscuits are popularly used as a way to mop up juices from the other dishes or gravy. Rice is also used as a side dish, sometimes served with black-eyed peas. 

The top sweeteners traditionally are molasses and sorghum syrup. Catfish or chicken with cornmeal breading, ribs, pig feet or skin for frying go together nicely. Collard greens cooked with ham hocks and other greens are delicious.  Popular sauces include homemade pickle relish called chow-chow or a condiment of cayenne peppers, vinegar salt garlic and spices. Lima and butter beans are commonly cooked in butter. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are also typical components of soul food cuisine. 

Some of the ingredients can sound slightly alarming to most people, but the ingenuity of using scrap foods is common in many cultures and is very commendable to end food waste. What I like about these foods is that they evoke feelings of home and comfort. 

Gif of man holding heart shaped pizza
However, it is best to consume all these fatty foods in moderation to avoid health issues. Another option is to use vegetable oils to cook turkey instead of pork. Luckily, you do not need to figure out the best substitutions for these recipes yourself: a whole world of recipes lies at your fingertips on the Internet. Even vegan and vegetarians can join the party now with alternatives to these recipes. Growing up, my favorite comfort foods were biscuits, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and sweet potato casserole, any fruit cobblers, and BBQ foods! With the help of online recipes, I continue to enjoy these foods any time I want. One of my vegan-ized favorites is BBQ jackfruit and mashed sweet potatoes. Although I never got into meaty dishes or mac and cheese for that matter it is fun to learn about the history of foods and culture.


I was born in Bakersfield, but I have moved over ten times since I was three years old. I love books and musicals. Yes I am a Hamilton fanatic, Potter fan, Tolkien follower and feel the compulsive need to read at least once a day. My other favorite hobby is cooking. Currently my major is in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning at UC Davis.
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