Honoring Black History Month: The Soul behind ‘Soul Food’

Black History Month

Cooking recipes from the heart, while honoring those from the past

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/ KFTA) — African American southern cuisine is often referred to as Soul Food. Everything including fried chicken, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, collard greens, macaroni & cheese, and cornbread, are just some of the many dishes known to grace the dinner tables of southern black families for over a century as it has been passed down from generations.

More than anything, soul food is cooked from the heart, prepared with love and it provides warm comfort in every bite. Chef Sheena Owens, the owner of Fayetteville based food truck ‘Kinley’s Soul Food’, launched her mobile kitchen in 2017 and is on a mission to share her love of soul food with Northwest Arkansas. Owens’ memories of soul food date back to her late grandmother in Little Rock.

“I just remember being a kid and my grandma was not rich, so that’s how she gifts us. For holidays and birthdays, on Sundays, it was so special because she made these amazing dishes for you and it was her way of loving you,” said Owens.

Chef Sheena Owens/ Instagram @kinleyssoulfood

Culinary historian and author Michael W. Twitty considers soul food as a form of memory cuisine that dates back to when black people were enslaved.

“Soul food can be described as the vernacular cuisine of black Americans, specifically from the American south and their descendants who migrated across the country,” said Twitty.

When the foodways including the cultural, social, and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food were modernized or had migrated for black people along slave plantations and agricultural farms, these foods became deeply rooted in the African American experience, created by native ingenuity and adapting to a new environment in the American South.

The term “Soul Food” came about in the 1960’s, running parallel to other terms using the word “Soul” to describe black people and black culture. A culture so rich in history, one that Twitty says is often buried.

“I want people to understand, there is a rich and beautiful heritage for us in terms of food and cooking, in our traditions, we just have to really not only uncover it but pass those narratives on” Twitty added.

It’s a narrative being passed on through the love of family, great food and community. Something Owens is helping locals bring to their dinner tables by serving it up on every plate she sells.

“My goal is to serve everyone the fruit of the spirits in a box. So that’s my definition of soul food.” she added.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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