Before there was soul food, there was classically prepared African-American cuisine. Back in the mid to late 1800’s Booker T Washington opened the first culinary school for freed blacks and American Indians, and within the program students learned the fine art of entertaining and cooking. The students were cooking fine soups such as cream of shrimp soup and spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. They were roasting Guinea hens and other fowl. They managed a farm were some students studied agriculture. And there was a demand for these students since blacks dominated the kitchens of the day and some African-Americans became more middle to upper class, they ate better than they did in some cases than their fore-fathers, and this carried on into the 50’s, I mean, we had some great chefs come up during that time such as Edna Lewis, Leah Chase and Nathanial Burton. Our cuisine had many influences from French to African and Indian.
Then in the sixties we became aware of our black pride and struggles of the civil rights era, that someone said soul brother, soul sister and soul food and in a sort of a rebellious fashion we selected the worst of food chain to be included, the offal cuts of pork and meats that was feed to us during slavery became popular, we over cooked everything, we added large amounts of sugar and sodium to certain foods. Now 50 years later we are paying the price with hyper tension, heart attack, diabetes, stroke and so on.
As a professional chef I felt a need to take our fine heritage cuisine and bring it to the forefront in a modern format, with less sodium and sugar and bring back some of those great products that have long since forgotten like spoon bread and focus on cooking properly without over cooking, which destroys vital nutrients. So this is why Beyond Soul Food, as chefs and cooks we stress that it is vital that we choose a more health conscious view about our heritage cuisine for better health. That school, Booker T Washington started was Hampton Institute at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Great Cooking see you next time.