Soul Food is a term used for an ethnic cuisine, food traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans of the Southern United States.

Many of the various dishes and ingredients included in “soul food” are also regional meals and comprise a part of other Southern US cooking, as well. The style of cooking originated during American slavery. African slaves were given only the “leftover” and “undesirable” cuts of meat from their masters (while the white slave owners got the meatiest cuts of ham, roasts, etc.).

They also had only vegetables grown for themselves. After slavery, many, being poor, could afford only off-cuts of meat, along with offal. Farming, hunting and fishing provided fresh vegetables, fish and wild game, such as possum, rabbit, squirrel and sometimes waterfowl. Africans living in America at the time (and since) more than made do with the food choices they had to work with. Dishes or ingredients commonly found in soul food include: Biscuits (a shortbread similar to scones, commonly served with butter, jam, jelly, sorghum or cane syrup, or gravy; used to wipe up, or “sop,” liquids from a dish). Black-eyed peas (cooked separately or with rice, as hoppin’ john). Catfish (dredged in seasoned cornbread and fried). Chicken (often fried with cornmeal breading or seasoned flour) Collard greens (usually cooked with ham hocks, often combined with other greens). Grits, often served with fish. Neckbones (beef neck bones seasoned and slow cooked). Okra: (African vegetable eaten fried in cornmeal or stewed, often with tomatoes, corn, onions and hot peppers). Turnip greens (usually cooked with ham hocks, often combined with other greens).

Though soul food originated in the South, soul food restaurants — from fried chicken and fish “shacks” to upscale dining establishments-are in every African-American community in the nation, especially in cities with large black populations, such as Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Slave Women Processing Pork on Wessyngton Plantation Source: http://www.wessyngton.com/blog/tag/slave-women-in-the-south/

Soul Food History: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/soul-food-brief-history