American cuisine

Colorado author Adrian Miller serves the tradition of soul food in American cuisine – CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4) – Soul food is the traditional food of African Americans, and its roots have grown in rural parts of the southern United States. Justin Adams of CBS4 spoke with Adrian Miller, author of Soul Food: the astonishing story of American cuisine, one plate at a time, as part of CBS4’s ongoing series: Elevating Black Voices.

Miller says the term “soul food” was developed in the 1940s and 1950s by jazz musicians.

“Jazz musicians used the term ‘soul’ to describe music in the black church and the rural south, and then it spread to other parts of the culture. So, it was first of all soul music, soul brother, soul sisters, soul food. But, in the 1960s, that’s when it really took hold, ”Miller said.

Soul food staples range from green leafy vegetables, okra, beans, sweet potatoes, cornmeal (used to make cornbread), macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and cornmeal. fried fish and banana pudding to name a few. Miller talks about several basic elements of “soul food”.

(credit: CBS)


According to Miller, chickens trace their heritage back to the Southeast Asian jungle fowl that were first domesticated around 2000 BCE.

“West Africans knew about chickens until AD 1,000, and many African Americans enslaved chickens raised for food or for sale to others. Over time, chicken has become a Sunday dinner favorite and is often baked, deep-fried or simmered and smothered in a sauce, ”Miller said.

Chicken is leaner than other meats and contains less cholesterol.

Green vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are an integral part of soul food cuisine. The five most popular green vegetables are: cabbage, cabbage, kale, mustard, and turnip greens.

“West Africans used green vegetables in many dishes, and this culinary heritage crossed the Atlantic during the slave trade. West African slaves weren’t always able to get their native African greens in the Americas, so they replaced European greens in their dishes, ”Miller said.


Okra is a green vegetable native to West Africa. When boiled or steamed, okra has a viscous property that makes it a preferred ingredient for thickening West African sauces and stews.

“Gumbo, the famous dish of Cajun and Creole cuisines, is an obvious descendant of West African cuisine. In many West African languages, “gumbo” is the name for okra. Over the last decade, okra sprinkled with cornmeal and fried has become very popular, but you should give fresh, boiled and steamed okra a chance, ”Miller said.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes were cultivated in South America until 2000 BCE. Christopher Columbus wrote down the sweet potatoes in the journal he kept on his first trip to America. Columbus brought sweet potatoes back to Europe where they were an instant hit. It was European colonizers who brought sweet potatoes to the pre-war south where it was a common food grown and given to slaves. There are many types of sweet potatoes, and over time, darker-fleshed sweet potatoes have been mistakenly called “yams”.

A popular way to make sweet potatoes is to serve them like candied yams in a sweet sauce or fries like french fries or tater tots. A very nutritious way to make sweet potatoes is to simply roast them and add a little butter.

corn bread

Cornbread is made from ground corn and other ingredients. “Maize” is a British word that was used generically for any grain, but over time it became the specific name we gave to a specific grain called maize. The corn plant was first cultivated in central Mexico in 5000 BCE and is now cultivated around the world. West Africans became familiar with the corn that made its way to Africa during the 1500s, and it was a staple food for slaves throughout the prewar south.

Cornbread remains a bread of choice for soul food cooks even to this day. A range of cornbread is made by soul food cooks, including hot-water cornbread, pan-fried cornbread, and spoon bread (a cornbread soufflé).

Beverage: iced tea or flavored drink

Soul food should be washed down with a red drink. Although soft drinks and flavored powdered drinks are often used, consider a healthier alternative by brewing an iced tea made from the red flowers of the hibiscus plant native to West Africa.

Hibiscus tea is also known as bissap in several West African countries, sorrel tea in the Caribbean and Jamaican water in Latin America. You can find hibiscus tea in the tea section of your grocery store.

Banana pudding

When banana pudding first appeared in the mid-1800s, it was a dessert primarily enjoyed by the wealthy, as bananas were so expensive to import into the United States. With the fall in the price of bananas, banana pudding has become something that will appeal to all kinds of people. Whether made with homemade custard or a pudding mix, banana pudding is a crowd favorite.

Bananas are originally from tropical Malaysia, but they quickly spread around the world. As bananas became more and more accepted as a food, they were incorporated into existing desserts. This is what happened with the banana pudding which is an adaptation of the British dessert called trifle. The trifles were basically cupcakes with a sweet cream sauce poured over them. Now the cake has been replaced with vanilla cookies.

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