B I G  M A M A  H A D  A  B I G  H E A R T  A T T A C K  A N D  Y O U ’ R E  S T I L L
I G N O R I N G  W H Y

I know that everyone has their memories of the movie, Soul Food. Yet,
all I can remember is the message that I got from it, which is that food
kills! Big Mama is a symbolic person that is too often seen in the Black
community. The woman who knows how to cook, and is feeding her
whole family a slow (or fast) death. This death is brought on by food
that is so-called, “good for the soul,” yet, it screws up the body with
high blood pressure or hypertension, diabetes and a host of other
PREVENTABLE diseases. Because Africans in North America
have lost many aspects of their varied cultures during
enslavement, holding onto Soul Food is seen as retaining one’s
connection to Africa. The truth is that Soul Food, nowadays, has
been warped and it ain’t the same as it was during slavery. Now
that your internet-having and library-card-possessing ass has access to
more information, you need to take ownership of Soul Food. You
need to make this heritage cuisine work for you, instead of making
your whole family diseased and sending them to an early grave.
What is Soul Food?
Like Jazz, Soul Food is a unique North American creation that is a
direct result of the Maafa (See “In the Ghetto). Enslaved Africans in
North America combined different foods, taking a little bit of this and
a little bit of that, resulting in some good eating. The foods involved in
Soul Food came from
three main sources.

African Sources
Let’s be clear. Whites didn’t just steal people from Africa. In fact, in
their brains, they weren’t stealing people, but RESOURCES. A
resource isn’t only a person, they also stole precious minerals, oil, etc.
Along with these resources, whites took food. Africans also brought
over a lot of food on their own, as seeds that were braided in young
girls’ hair, or as seeds that were embedded in clothing. A lot of these
foods could not grow in a European climate, so whites were
completely unfamiliar with how to cultivate these crops. Even in the
Americas, these crops were totally tended by enslaved Africans. One
such crop was rice, which grows in a tropical environment that whites
could not tolerate. Other crops that came straight from Africa were
indigo, okra, sorghum, kola nut, sesame seed and various melons.

Indian (Native American) Sources
When enslaved Africans were brought to North America, many of
them weren’t down with being enslaved to white people. Some ran
away. Others led all-out war and revolts against white slave owners.
This brought Africans in contact with the various Indian Nations who
were in the Southeast, such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw,
Creek and Seminole. In many cases, formerly enslaved Africans were
incorporated in Indian communities. Even those Africans that
remained enslaved still interacted with various Indian peoples. This
close connection allowed Africans and Indians a fruitful cultural
exchange. One thing that happened is that Southern Indian foods and
cooking techniques like boiling beans and curing meat over smoked
hickory, found their way into modern Soul Food cooking. This
became a way of preserving some of the cooking traditions found
among Southern Indian Nations.

White Sources
Whites’ primary contributions to Soul
Food were the pig and the cow. In
Europe, during colonial times, whites
basically used every part of an animal.
However, once it was found out that corn
doubles as a key source of feed for
livestock, white Americans increased their
meat production to a degree that was
substantially higher than the rest of the
world. This led to greater consumption,
and the current statistic, which is that
Americans eat three to five times the
amount of animal protein than the rest of
the world. Because meat was in such
abundance, wealthy whites in the
Americas could choose to only eat
certain, choice cuts of pork and beef. Only in the Americas did the
notion of, “eating high on the hog” develop. So, while it is true that
Blacks were given the scraps of the pig and cow, the reality is that poor
whites were already eating pig intestines, head cheeses and jowls. Poor
whites actually showed Blacks how to prepare pig and cow innards.
While whites typically seasoned these dishes only with salt, Blacks also
used various other seasonings, including onion, garlic, bay leaf and
In terms of vegetables, whites forced Blacks to utilize “cast-off” greens
like turnip, beet and dandelion leaves. Kale, cress, cabbage and
mustard were also introduced to Soul Food by whites. However,
ironically, many of these fruits and vegetables didn’t have a European
origin. These foods had found their way into Europe via the Silk Road,
(the trade route that stretches from Europe to the civilized world:
Africa, India, Arabia and the Far East), during Grecian and Roman
times. So, although many consider turnips and beets “white” foods,
they actually came from Morocco, North Africa.
There is an emotional connection to Soul Food that links into part of
our own romanticism of slavery. Along with the Christian religion,
Soul Food is seen as one of those ways that helped Blacks make it
through slavery. So, when one speaks out against Soul Food, they are
seen as attacking, (what many people see as), a fundamental part of
being a Black American. Let’s look now, at three major points:
Did You Know?
Soul Food classics like hominy,
cornbread, grits and corn meal
dumplings (hush puppies) are
actually Indian dishes. Indians
also shared the meats that they
hunted and trapped with
Africans. This is how the use of
venison, rabbit, squirrel, and
possum and raccoon meat found
their way into the traditional Soul
Food menu. Because Native
Americans ate very little meat to
begin with, they wasted no part
of the animal and ate organ
meats like liver, brain, and
intestines. This same practice
was applied by Africans in their

1. You aren’t working like a slave.
When a runner is getting ready for a marathon, he or she will eat a
heavy meal, the night before, of pasta. This is because pasta releases its
sugar/energy slowly. So, when the runner is getting tired down the
line, their body can use the pasta’s energy as fuel. The marathon
runner eats in order to be successful at his or her profession. During
slavery, work was from sun up to sun down, often in humidity and
heat. The foods that Africans ate were heavy in fat and calories to
aid them with this heavy labor. Nearly no one nowadays is
working like a slave, so eating like they did isn’t beneficial. In
fact, it does nothing but push us into obesity and disease.
2. Slaves didn’t eat three big meals a day.
They generally had one big meal a day that they had towards the
closing of their day. They wouldn’t have been able to work if they ate
huge meals at breakfast and lunch. This is because the body
automatically goes into digestion mode, taking energy from the rest of
the body to aid in digestion in the stomach and intestines.
3. They didn’t eat a whole bunch of deep fried meat every day.
Anyone who cooks knows how much time that it takes to prepare
meals. Frying and barbecuing meat takes a lot of time. This is time that
slave masters did not give slaves. Seeing that the slaves were only
getting scraps of meat from the slave master, slaves didn’t have a
surplus of meat to go wasting every day. The majority of meat scraps
were utilized to season pots of greens, beans and other vegetables.
There is evidence that the historical “slave diet” was heavy on
vegetables. Definitely heavier in vegetables than the current
American diet. What we also know, for sure, is that slaves
generally at large portions of meat only once a week. Holidays
were another time when slaves ate large portions of meat because the
slave masters were having feasts, leaving the slaves with the left-overs.

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