• By Don Dwiggins
  • Posted Thursday, February 4, 2010

Soul of the South: How Home Cookin’ Created a Home

Throughout the history of the South, Southern cooking has done more than just feed generations of people. It has helped bridge cultural, economic and racial divides by offering up heaping portions of the greatest common denominator known to mankind, great food.

In recognition of Black History Month, African-American cooking will be celebrated at a community forum at our Carver School Road Branch Library. The public is invited to share a favorite recipe, story and dessert during “Soul of the South: How Home Cookin’ Created a Home.” Moderating the forum will be journalist and food historian Jennifer L. Stevenson.

We’ll also discuss, and celebrate, the many African-American traditions that are the soul of southern cooking. Using new flavors and methods of preparation, generations of black cooks transformed the diet and tastes of the American South and eventually the nation.

Given nothing more than “throwaway foods,” during the era of slavery, African Americans turned hardship foods into delicious dishes through sheer ingenuity. Denied prime cuts of meat, slaves cooked up ham hocks, oxtail and pig’s feet. Added to the pot were seasonings -- onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaf – to disguise spoilage. Only by long simmering were bitter greens made tender. From African traditions came the cooking methods of frying in hot oil and seasoning with smoked meat. Black-eye peas – once used only for livestock feed – became a staple. Discarding nothing, the vitamin-rich “pot likker” from the long-stewed vegetables supplemented their diet.

From the slave kitchen evolved a delicious legacy: cooks slowly introduced their food onto the tables of wealthy plantations, forever changing a diet of bland meat and carbohydrates. And eventually, these foods forged a common bond between black and white society and a shared southern identity.

Monday, February 15, Carver School Road Branch Library @ 6:30 pm.

Soul of the South is one of 14 Black History Month Library programs sponsored by the Forsyth County Public Library. For more information call 703-2910.

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