Is Southern Cooking Soul Food?
Is all southern cooking soul food? I've had a lot of people ask me if there is a difference between the two. I have come to find out the real answer is in who you ask....everyone seems to have an opinion. Now, if you want my opinion, here's the way that I see it.
Southern cooking encompasses a wide variety of dishes that were influenced by a wide variety of people depending upon the immigrants that settled in the area and the food that was available to them. Most southern cuisine was influenced by settlers from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain, France, Native Americans and African Americans. Southern cuisine consists primarily of Appalachian, cajun, creole, lowcountry, BBQ, Tex Mex, Floribean and Soul Food.
Appalachian cuisine came about because travel was difficult so most of the food had to be grown locally. There were lots of pig and chicken farms and they used the smokehouses to preserve their ham, bacon and sausage. The drippings from the meat were used in many dishes. This is where we got our Virginia Hams, sausage gravy and chicken and dumplins'.
Cajun and Creole foods were heavily influenced by the French and also by the Spanish. Jambalaya is a great example of the Spanish influence.
Lowcountry cuisine from the coastal areas of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia were also heavily influenced by the Spanish and French and many of the dishes contain an abundance of fish, seafood and rice. Hoppin' John and Brunswick Stew are 2 of the more well known Southern dishes from this region.
Pit BBQ was a gift from the Native Americans. The sauce can be based on vinegar, mustard, ketchup and even mayonnaise depending upon the region of the country you're visiting.
Tex Mex cuisine was heavily influenced by Native American and Mexican cuisines.
“Floribbean” cuisine was mainly influenced by the Spanish but Cuban and Caribbean immigrants also played a large part.
The term “Soul Food” came about in the 1960's and was used to describe dishes that were heavily influenced by not only African Americans and their African roots but also Native Americans. Hominy, grits, cornbread, hoe cakes and hush puppies were all given to us by the Native Americans. The slaves were often given the “scraps” from the animals and vegetables that the rich plantation owners didn't want. Vegetables consisted of the green tops of the turnips, beets and dandelions. Some vegetables, like okra, were actually brought here from Africa. They were given the discarded cuts of meat like oxtails, pigs feet, hog jowls, ham hocks, chitlins', tripe and the skin of the pig. Some plantation owners gave the slaves small plots to grow their own vegetables and they would often supplement their meager diets with small, wild game like opossum, squirrel and raccoons. Many rich plantation owners used slaves as their cooks and they were able to take popular southern dishes from other areas of the south and made them their own by adding their own twist. Soul food is usually heavily seasoned and, although it may not always be some of the healthiest foods, I think everyone can agree that it is some of the tastiest!
So, if you are asking me, "Is all Southern Cooking Soul Food?", my answer is no. But if you are asking me, "Is all Soul Food Southern Cooking?", my answer is yes.....at least that's the way that I see it. Ask someone else and you may well get a different answer.
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