Regional Spotlight: Southern Soul Food

From Arkansas to North Carolina, the soul food of the South still reigns supreme. All the finger-licking comfort foods like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, collard greens and black-eyed peas, conjure up images of the down-home family style meals that are quintessentially soul food. Soul food is meant to be comforting and bring a smile to your face. It is the kind of food that is prepared with the whole family, with recipes passed down from generation to generation. America’s South is full of the unassuming soul food restaurants that let the food speak for itself. There is as much a culture surrounding soul food as there is a cuisine, and it is one you need to visit the South to see.

While signature soul food dishes are not hard to find, great soul food cooks always put a little something extra into each dish. You’ve always heard your grandmother say “love is the secret ingredient,” but that is entirely true with this fare. Cooks will put their heart into the food as if they were cooking for their own families and that’s what makes each bite so amazing – well, that and the buttery, rich, fried ingredients.

The tumultuous past of soul food makes every bite even more meaningful. Many cornerstones in the soul food fare were staples in the diet of American slaves. Dishes were made with whatever slaves could access: greens they grew themselves, leftover meat parts, and cheap, high-calorie foods like rice and yams to fuel long days of labor. During the Civil Rights era, soul food earned its name and helped keep the movement going. It is such personal food, with deep roots, that is hard to not fall in love with it.

No matter what Southern state you are in, it is easy to find a great soul food restaurant. While soul food is undeniably good for the soul, it isn’t exactly the picture of health. So take it all in while you’re in the heart of the South, but leave the butter behind when you head back home. Everything in moderation – at least that’s what Grandma would say.


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