In this insightful and eclectic history, Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition.
Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish–such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and “red drinks”–Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity.
Miller argues that the story is more complex and surprising than commonly thought. Four centuries in the making, and fusing European, Native American, and West African cuisines, soul food–in all its fried, pork-infused, and sugary glory–is but one aspect of African American culinary heritage. Miller discusses how soul food has become incorporated into American culture and explores its connections to identity politics, bad health raps, and healthier alternatives. This refreshing look at one of America’s most celebrated, mythologized, and maligned cuisines is enriched by spirited sidebars, photographs, and 22 recipes.
“An engaging, tradition-rich look at an often overlooked American cuisine–certainly to be of interest to foodies from all walks of life.”
–Kirkus starred review
“[A] comprehensive and entertaining history of soul food. . . . A lively and thorough account for fans of food literature and of African American history. Recipes included. Highly recommended.”
“Detailed and sprightly. . . . [Miller] adds in-depth chapters that explore more than a dozen soulful dishes–including catfish, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, cornbread and candied yams.”
“Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish–such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens and ‘red drinks’–Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African-American culture and identity.”
–The Philadelphia Tribune
“Miller knows all about soul food’s allure, both as a way of eating and as cultural totem. . . . [His] book is a labor of love.”
“Miller’s book is a mouth-watering tome that not only titillates the palate, but feeds the brain with science, geography and history.”
Johnetta’s Mixed Greens
This is my favorite thing to make in the soul food genre. I didn’t grow up eating collards. My mother usually made a combination of mustard and turnip greens. Turnip greens seemed to be the popular option for greens as I traveled through Tennessee. I love the peppery aroma that mustard greens give off while they’re cooking. I’ve lately been using smoked turkey parts to season my greens because they give good flavor with less fat. Yet, every once in a while, I go retro and put on a pot of greens with some ham hocks.
Makes 8 servings
2 smoked ham hocks or smoked turkey wings, or 1 leg (1 pound)
1 1/2 pounds turnip greens
1 1/2 pounds mustard greens
1 tablespoon granulated garlic or 2 minced garlic cloves
1 medium onion, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1) Rinse the hocks, wings, or leg, place them in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is tender and the cooking liquid is flavorful, 20 to 30 minutes. Discard the hocks, wings, or leg.
2) Meanwhile, remove and discard the tough stems from the greens. Cut or tear the leaves into large, bite-sized pieces. Fill a clean sink or very large bowl with cold water. Add the leaves and gently swish them in the water to remove any dirt or grit. Lift the leaves out of the water and add them to the hot stock, stirring gently until they wilt and are submerged.
3) Stir in the onion, pepper flakes, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
4)Simmer until the greens are tender, about 30 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve hot.
From Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller. Copyright © 2013 by Adrian Miller. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.