Get ‘Soul Food’ Happy in February

| February 3, 2013

Grilled_Fish_and_beans-400Since slavery, many African Americans have bonded over breaking bread. Plantations were wells of creativity, where slaves created hearty meals, exchanged recipes, and taught one another about survival through feeding the soul. Even with little much of nothing, they secretly whipped up sustainable foods like fufu with vegetables and yams. Having expressed their frustrations and creativity, slaves brought their culinary passions to life using black pots over open pits and fireplaces. Their cooking was a comfort, and recipes were sources of rejuvenation; food symbolized their fortitude.

Fast forward to the 1960’s, Black America sought to reconnect with that formative past. The late restaurateur Sylvia Woods was an unassuming leader of the “soul food” movement, filling her eponymous-named Harlem eatery with fragrant aromas carrying that history. Woods and several others proved that a love for cooking pervades our DNA. In today’s technology-laden, social media-savvy world, we sometimes forget that legacy.

So this Black History Month, make food your passion project. Connect or check back in with your loved ones, significant others, or friends over a rich meal. Food has the power to bring the family together while sticking to your ribs in the process. Go on and celebrate culinary heritage, which is a formative story of perseverance and fresh starts.

To embrace that history, I will cook soul food with a new contemporary spin. Intrepid ancestors used makeshift ingredients to create fare; I challenge everyone to express your culinary passions. Experiment with jerk chicken over rice to pepper the palate with a spicy taste. Fill your wine glasses with a complex-flavored red wine, which will balance the meal. For Valentine’s Day, a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with palpable aromas would complement the chicken’s flavor profile; it makes for a romantic toast and savory taste.

Speaking of tastes, African Americans brought foods like okra to the forefront. These foods deserve attention especially verdant collard greens. This food for the soul meshes well with vitamin-rich black eyes peas, reminding us of the southern roots from which some of today’s culinary complexities have grown. Collard greens meld nicely with grilled red snapper drenched in garlic and herbs and white wines like Pinot Grigio. Why? Well, lighter, more delicate foods fair best with a wine with less body.

For dessert, a peach cobbler and bottle of Chardonnay sounds enticing; they both share a vanilla flavor that revitalizes taste buds. A white grape-based dessert wine is always a favorable match to that wildly popular confection. It is all about finding a balance: discovering a wine with a complimentary flavor, aroma and weight. Using that method, it is easy to pair a crisp or smooth varietal with your dinner.

While wearing the chef’s hat and apron, cooking should inspire thoughts about how food energizes the body, mind and spirit. Every celebration and family dinner should have food at its heart, reuniting everyone in present moments and reminding them of the past. Remember this advice: whatever creation excites your kitchen fancy, hold on to tradition and seize today at once.

Since graduating from Syracuse University in 2009, Clarissa Hamlin’s mission has been to inspire and empower the world through her writing.   She was formerly a reporter for the Valley Stream Herald and Lynbrook/East Rockaway Herald on Long Island, NY and later went on to become a contributor for UPTOWN and GALO (Global Arts Laid Out) Magazines. She is grateful to God for extending more blessings to her as columnist for Afrikan Goddess Magazine. As an AG columnist, she will direct her energy towards impassioned articles about the storied, stellar paragons that are African women. “Let us celebrate their beauty, grace and radiance.” 

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Clarissa Hamlin, Contributor

Clarissa Hamlin, Contributor

Since graduating from Syracuse University in 2009, Clarissa Hamlin’s has been on a mission to inspire and empower the world through her writing. She was formerly a reporter for the Valley Stream Herald and Lynbrook/East Rockaway Herald in Long Island, NY. She later went on to become a contributing writer for UPTOWN and GALO (Global Arts Laid Out) Magazines. Clarissa feels grateful to God for her new gig as a contributing columnist for Afrikan Goddess Magazine. She hope to direct her energy towards impassioned articles about the stories and stellar paragons that are African women. She joins Afrikan Goddess in "celebrating the beauty, grace and radiance” of women everywhere, especially women of African descent.

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