Two Chefs on Keeping Alive, and Redefining, Soul Food

Should be “gifted”.

Two Chefs on Keeping Alive, and Redefining, Soul Food


This quote struck me: “When we’re thinking about Southern food, I think people are thinking of a geographic region, but because of the Great Migration soul food can be anywhere.”

The notion that any cuisine morphs to reflect local food trends is nothing new, of course, but I like the idea of untethering soul food from the south. Debatable whether my area (DC metro) is southern or not but there is certainly lots of interesting soul food full of a range of diasporic influences. Reminds me to get ahold of Chris Scott’s book about Amish Soul Food…


I had never heard of the Great Migration, but I witnessed it at work when I was younger. I came out east from Montana in 1982 and worked at the Grand Hyatt DC as a bellman as I went to school at George Mason in NoVA. The bellstaff was mainly black inner city guys and white college boys from all over the US, but there were also two “good old white boys” from the hills of North Carolina. We tended to party as a group but the parties that I remember best are when one of us would organize a pig picking party. He would buy a whole pig, have it split in the middle and lay it on a grate over a nice hot fire pit. When one side was done, they would put a grate on top of the pig, fasten the two grates together by hook or by crook, and flip the whole shebang over to cook the other side. At which point the hungrier people at the party would head over to the pig and “pick” little chunks of mostly cooked pig off, usually burning themselves slightly in the process. Great food, great time!
But the funny thing was that the parties run by the inner city black guys and the white guys from Carolina were almost exactly the same. Everyone played horseshoes, drank down market bourbon, ate greens of one sort or another, plus biscuits from a box and of course roast pig.
Being a “foreigner”, I had to ask how it ended up that Carolina white guys and inner city guys all ate the same food and played the same game. Of course, almost all of the black guys had grandparents that had come up from the Carolinas or Georgia 40 or 50 years before.

Nowadays when i think of southern food one of my favorite places is This Is Seafood in Clinton MD. They have great whiting, shrimp, catfish, perch, crab, corn, wings. No roast pig, though. But maybe i should check their menu for it, just in case. This menu is less Carolina, and more southern Maryland seafood, but still feels “southern”. Maybe I am mistaken on that though. If I had to guess, the owner, Karen, probably has grandparents from southern Virginia or the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Great lady, operates an outstanding business.


I’m more confused after reading this.
I don’t know what’s southern, what’s soul food, and what’s neither.
Who decides the definitions?
And where does the whole bbq culture which has expanded far beyond the south fit in?


I think a Venn Diagram of Soul Food, Southern Food as a whole, Carolina food and Southern Maryland food overlap in places but the majority of the cyisines sit apart. :smile:
Maybe all the abovevused to fall under “Southern Food” but now the groups have shifted?

I am a Montanan so my take on it is that of an outsider with only a smattering of knowledge about the cuisines.

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Agree that things have shifted, like pretty much everything else in the world right? Nothing stays the same. Also agree that Venn Diagrams explain a lot.

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Likewise. There is no definition here; I think its assumed we know. But is that what the article is about? Or is it ‘Two Black chefs and restaurant owners discuss their food, their business experiences, and etc?’

I have eaten at both a vegan place and a ‘health food/vegetarian’ place owned and run by Blacks. I didn’t think at either one I was eating Soul Food.