Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrating Black History: Soul Food

Photo courtesy of Pearl's Place Restaurant website
By Michel Harris, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
This month, The Awakening Center has invited its clientele and followers (and future clientele and followers) to celebrate Black History Month, as we continue on our “Awaken to Action” mission. Originally, this recognition of achievements by black Americans spanned one selected week in February but was fittingly expanded to the whole month in 1970. Official recognition came in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, and soul food feasts are very popular as part of the celebration. Many of my clients find soul food challenging because of the cooking methods used to prepare several of the popular menu items and the plethora of side dishes and desserts. 

While soul food usually conjures up thoughts of fried chicken, biscuits, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato pie, I first challenge all of you to learn more about the origins of this cuisine! Currently, most of us live in a world in which food choices are vast and unlimited. When traced back to slavery, and the period of time after it was abolished, soul food represents what African Americans did to make the best of what was available. This included the leftover, undesirable cuts of meat from their plantation masters, and later on, vegetables from home gardens and items obtained via farming, hunting, and fishing. Black-eyed peas, various types of beans and green vegetables, and sweet potatoes serve as ingredients in many soul food recipes. Red pepper flakes, garlic and onion and chili powders, paprika, and thyme are typically used to season soul food.

Now, for the second challenge, find a soul food restaurant or prepare some recipes at home for a special themed lunch or dinner to celebrate Black History Month. Recommended restaurants in the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs include
  • Buck’s (1700 West Division Street)
  • Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles (3947 South King Drive)
  • Luella’s Southern Kitchen (4609 North Lincoln Avenue)
  • Pearl’s (5352 North Broadway Street)
  • Pearl’s Place (3901 South Michigan Avenue)
  • 6978 Soul Food (6978 North Avenue)
  • Wishbone Restaurant (1001 West Washington Boulevard)
  • Wishbone North (3300 North Lincoln Avenue)

If you want to prepare your own feast, the website Soul Food & Southern Cooking has numerous recipes or find a cookbook at your local library. Deviled eggs, fried or blackened fish or chicken, gumbo, jambalaya, greens, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and fruit cobblers are just a few of the delicious options. 

Keep in mind that most ethnic cuisines are a mix of foods with different nutrient profiles. Acceptance of all foods makes for a healthy relationship with food!

Michel Harris a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and serves on the staff of The Awakening Center. 
She believes in the mindful approach to develop a peaceful relationship with food and exercise in the recovery process of eating disorders. To find out more or to set up an appointment with Michel, call 773.929.6262.