Sweet Mother’s Kitchen is a site about the food that I grew up eating, soul food in all it’s glory! What is soul food? Well to me it’s food that transports you back to your roots, back home – wherever that may be, with one bite! Soul food crosses all ethnic groups, races, tribes and lineages. Every ethnic group has dishes that would be considered soul food. It doesn’t matter if you are African, Greek, Chinese or Polish. Indian, German or Italian – there is soul food in your roots. It’s the stuff of life. The dish that everyone remembers, craves and is comforted by when it’s eaten. Soul food puts lots of emphasis on vegetables, casseroles and side dishes. Greens, beans, onions, tomatoes, yams, okra, soups and stews – fresh from the garden produce. Soul food is traditionally cooked with very little meat. Meat is used for seasoning the dish – not as the star of the dish. Meat was scarce and hard to come by during slavery when American soul food was born, so it was used sparingly if at all!
The original soul food, slave food, was farm to table eating before there was such a thing as the farm to table movement. The slaves planted, tended and harvested food for the family they belonged to. The scraps and food that didn’t go to the animals, was what was allowed to be eaten by the slaves. That means they would fix food and eat it as they didn’t have any way to keep it – no refrigeration. They saved scraps of the leftovers from the smoke house which they used to season their dishes. This was probably the only food item they could hold onto longer than a day or two because smoke house meat was preserved (in salt) to last.
They saved the scraps from the butchering of a hog, cow, goat or sheep or wild game, which they turned into the meat for their meals. This is why pigs feet, tails, ears, chitterlings, chicken feet, ham hocks and parts of the animal considered as “no good/throw away/discards” are prevalent in soul food cooking. Coincidentally, I have found these same animal parts starring in cooking from other cultures from Mexico to Madagascar. Soul food is global cuisine, the stuff of common folk, peasant food, the food that is eaten and loved by every culture on earth!
Truth is, meat is meat so what the slaves and cultures of the world knew is that an animal is good for more than just steaks, chops and roasts. To honor the animal you had to kill for food, you use as much of it as possible. Consider the American Indians and the buffalo as an example. They ate the meat, rendered the fat for cooking, making soap etc and used the hide for their tee-pees, clothing, etc.
My mother was an awesome cook and she taught her daughters well! I know that I am not alone but am instead a member of a very exclusive club of people who are forever grateful for the time and effort someone took to give them the cooking skills that they have today! Honor your greatest cooking influence and submit your favorite recipes and share them with the world! It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – submit your favorite soul food dish, whether it’s a dish of Haluski (cabbage and noodles from Poland), palm butter and fufu (Liberia, West Africa) or Chinese chicken feet soup (China). Let’s get back in the kitchen, Sweet Mother’s Kitchen… it’s one of my favorite places to be! So wash your hands and grab an apron, there’s cooking to do so let’s get busy! Sweet Mother’s Kitchen… Cook. Share. Remember.