The Origins of Soulfood
Every ethnic group has what it calls “soul food” – soothing, comfort food that brings back warm memories of family dinners. Today, in America, the term “soul food” simply means African-American cuisine. To fully understand the concept of “soul food,” you must learn the traditional foods of Africa. Many common American foods are indigenous to Africa. Grains, legumes, yams, sorghum, watermelon, pumpkin, okra, and leafy greens could be found as early as 4000 BC on the African continent. Eggplant, cucumber, onion and garlic are believed to be African in origin, while only a small number of fruits are grown on the continent: wild lemons, oranges, dates and figs.
Many culinary historians believe that in the beginning of the 14th century, around the time of early African exploration, European explorers brought their own food supplies and introduced them into the African diet. Foods such as turnips from Morocco and cabbage from Spain would play an important part in the history of African American cuisine.
As meat was used sparingly, the average African ate mostly a vegetarian diet, though seafood showed up often in stews served with a starch. Okra and native peppers were used as seasoning and salt as a preservative.
All that being said, can you guess what the typical African meal was?