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Soul, Black Women, and Food. American women’s search for identity in the 1960s coincided with the black quest through history for their origins One of the most symbolic tools in the search for roots is food-soul food. Soul Food. Roots like yams and potatoes symbolize stability

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soul black women and food
Soul, Black Women, and Food
  • American women’s search for identity in the 1960s coincided with the black quest through history for their origins
  • One of the most symbolic tools in the search for roots is food-soul food.
soul food

Soul Food

Roots like yams and potatoes symbolize stability

Slaves brought and used seeds to preserve African culture

Many of these foods have been adopted by white American culture

-watermelon, okra

pride plumpness
Pride & Plumpness
  • Black women express themselves and gain self confidence through food preparation
  • Black women pride themselves on how they can make something out of nothing
  • Black women takes pride in the plumpness of those who eat her food
    • family, consumers and even white Americans
  • In black culture big is associated with beautiful
family food
Family & Food

Large families are intentional

Children praise mother about cooking

one way to experience the feeling of plenty

Contribution to the black world

Family stories shared at meals


Slaves were mostly illiterate so recipes were

passed orally

-room for creativity

-rely on senses

-snuck slave’s tastes into master’s food

Cultural knowledge

-Reject scientific progress and use fresh foods so no concerns about harmful preservatives

why eat out
Why eat out?
  • Less trips to restaurants doesn’t just reflect economic status. This shows cultural preference for soulful home cooked meal

-Black Americans in the suburbs drive to the ghetto to get soul food

-Potlucks in the suburbs have the same foods as potlucks in the ghetto

Also personal gardens represent African respect for land, living things and African spirituality

soul food is soulful no matter who prepares it
Soul food is soulful no matter who prepares it!

Soul is the sapphire that shows when you peel back the human layers

Human layers and differences represented with opposites in american culture

-Beauty v Ugliness, White v Black, Smart v Dumb

This shows intolerance and attempt to anglo-ize

Americans rather than embrace differences

-Black people recognize the power of labeling

-Must not question the soulfulness of other black people or of any black food

Soul food is soulful no matter who prepares it!

black women may enjoy cooking but what is the reality of cooking as a profession
Black Women may enjoy cooking, but what is the reality of cooking as a profession
  • The prevalence of black women working as domestic cooks is a result of their role as cooks during slavery (historically acquired role definition)
  • Many jobs held by black people still focus on nurturingwhite people and they are still destine for poverty. This is still a form of slavery.
soul food and religion
Soul Food and Religion
  • Restrictions on food such as scheduling or selection not common
  • Eating during spiritual & religious rituals is a special celebration and a black community gathering
  • Black preacher always gets first choice

-Black Preacher is responsible for passing on the oral history of the black community

  • Black Americans couldn’t go into restaurants until the


-pack a lunch and share with a friend

The core of African American Food celebrations is the intent to share

ex. Hog Killing

-community gathering

-men help with killing, skinning and making major cuts

-women help clean the meat, do the trimmings prepare samples and give portions to neighbors

One of few activities with clear gender divisions in black culture

Relates back to African traditions

gender roles
Gender roles
  • Cooking is less gender specific because many black people are cooks as an occupation
  • Economic circumstances lead black women to be more independent and autonomous and take on other roles
  • Motherhood and dominance in kitchen still important
  • “What’s for dinner Momma?”

- no perverse connotations when directed at one’s wife

-Momma implies that the food is nourishing the individual physically and spiritually

typical black kitchen
Typical Black Kitchen

Breakfast: Grits, homemade biscuits, ham or bacon, molasses or canned preserves, fresh milk and fresh eggs (may substitute ham or bacon for country-smoothered steak, fried chicken, fried chicken or porkchops)

Dinner: “mess of greens” with pot licker (collards, turnips, cabbage, beet green or mustard seasoned with pork skins, fatback or ham hocks), bread, potatoes, fresh squeezed lemonade, maybe a meat and a cobbler (canned peached, fresh apples, fresh wild fruits like huckleberries, blackberries, or dew berries). Desserts might include breadpudding or homemade cookies

Supper: Fruits cut up in creamy milk, biscuits, ice cream, fried chicken, creamed potatoes and buttermilk for farm families


Inherited from Africa and emphasized by slave masters and is still prevalent

-sometimes viewed as a purely economic decision

Some people connect soul food to higher rates of hypertension in the black population in America

-Hughes suggests that hypertension might be more directly related to social and economic stress

  • Stereotyped black female body is portrayed a big bosom with a round and fat body (like aunt Jemima)
  • Stereotyped white female body is portrayed as thin and petite
  • Hughes’s mother is concerned with her slimness
pleasure in eating and feeding
Pleasure in Eating and Feeding
  • Stuffing the mouth with objects such as pacifiers, thumbs and cigarettes has been acknowledged as a psycological expression of emptiness
  • Excessive eating as a coping mechanism for emotional stress
  • The short term pleasure of eating and feeding one’s family takes away the painful realities of oppression