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The Dining Table

Soul Food is the familiar name given to the culinary traditions of foods prepared in the African American traditions. Some people consider Southern Cooking to be synonymous with Soul Food; however, they are similar but slightly different.

The Europeans who settled in what is now the American South brought with them livestock (cattle and pigs), potatoes, and other vegetables which have remained central to Southern Cooking. These settlers also brought to America African slaves to cultivate the land. While slavery will forever be a source of profound shame for the U.S., the slaves’ contributions to the American culinary traditions are something to elevate and celebrate!

Since slaves were required to do the cooking for the slave owner’s family, African cooking techniques and patterns were permanently adopted and integrated into the diet of the American South. Foods like peas, okra, eggplant, peanuts and yams are among the foods brought to the new world by slaves.

Unique regional foods like those found in Louisiana were shaped by the French and Spanish settlers who settled there. The French settlers brought over their soups and stews while their Spanish compatriots introduced America to onions, peppers and garlic (the “holy trinity” of Louisiana Cooking) and tomatoes. The Africans added their spices and okra while the Native Americans contributed indigenous foods such as crawfish, shrimp, oysters, crabs and pecans into the local cuisine.