In mid-February, a client approached me about producing a Soul Food themed class for Black History Month for their organization. It was a short turnaround time, but I new exactly who to call to work it through in a good way--my newest culinary collaborator, Harlem-based Chef Steve "Touchef" Coupet. We've co-created a class celebrating Haitian Cuisine and he was just the man to talk about how to do this in a good way. Our conversations clarified my approach to Global Soul Food.
I wanted to take a longer view of Soul Food, one focused on the themes, techniques and ingredients that I see translate across culture. One that celebrated the story of the African Diaspora and the resilience of generations of Black people in the face of, well--just too damn much. We called it the Soul Food Remix
Here is the writing that emerged from creating an experience with Chef Coupet:
Soul Food, in our view, is rooted in a sense of belonging, it’s about food that’s nourishing, accessible to make, and speaks to the history of a place and a people. It weaves together the strands of our personal and cultural history, the land we live on and human creativity into a tapestry of deliciousness. Soul Food is the story of human interdependence and interconnectivity with all its messy, painful beauty and brilliance.
The Soul Food Remix weaves together 3 simple dishes that represent a diaspora of global soul food--weaving a tapestry of traditionally African, Indigenous American, and Southeast Asian ingredients that speak to a broad collective story: Blue Corn and Cassava Flatbread, with Hoppin John and a Green Mango Pickle (more about the menu below)
In popular culture, Soul Food speaks to what we think of as comfort food, or historically as celebration foods. Foods that have cultural significance but don’t speak to a healthy, plant based diet. The ancestors who prepared those foods would be surprised to see that we eat them daily.
The Remix Conversation
The essential idea behind the Remix is to reimagine and reclaim Soul Food from what it has come to mean in the popular culture while highlighting the ways that Soul Food’s across traditions and cultures are healthy foods of resilience, resistance, and rooted in the land and traditions of every culture that still maintains a connection to the land.
Our perspective highlights:
Soul Food as resilience highlighting stories of how Slaves wove seeds into their hair on the journey across the Atlantic so they would be able to feed their families in unimaginable circumstances.
Soul Food Reclaimed-Sharing the history of plant based eating in Black American culture and provide resources for further reading.
Soul Food Reimagined- Our dishes are by no means traditional--they are creativity rooted in reverence for the source. A living celebration of the ingenuity, creativity, and brilliance of People of African descent whose cultural contributions are innumerable.
More about our Menu:
Blue Corn and Cassava Flatbread- Nearly every culture has a flatbread, something quick and delicious hot off the griddle. This flatbread marries Corn--sacred sustaining plant Indigenous to North America and Yuca--the tropical tuber that provides the basis for much Carribean cuisine while evoking the traditional African staple of yams
Hoppin’ John-A staple celebration food of the American South--this black eyed pea dish is the first cousin to Red-Red a staple of Ghanian Cuisine.
Green Mango Pickles- A Carribean dish rooted in South East Asian Cuisine, this offers a perfect salty and sour punch contrast and a lesson on the ancient practice of preserving foods that promote gut health.
Clearly, there is a thesis--or three--to write here. But we are mostly here to break bread together--so let’s eat. And while we do--we invite you to think about your Grandmothers. We all have a culinary tradition rooted in ancient tradition. Take a moment to reflect on Soul Food in your life and consider the food of your ancestry. Soul Food, in the broadest sense, is rooted in a sense of belonging, it’s food that’s nourishing, and speaks to the history of a place and a people. It’s the food of our grandmothers--wherever they may be from. We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line.