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Celebrating Food with Soul

Posted by: Jeremy Walsh, June 27, 2013 4:58 pm
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June is National Soul Food Month, but any month is a great time to head to one of Queens’ beloved restaurants or try your hand at some kitchen wizardry.

Soul Food is the tradition of African-American cooking that originated when the cultures of Africa encountered the meager ingredients available to them as slaves in the United States.

The dishes tend to feature simple, humble food items like grits, fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, less-desirable parts of the pig, and anything else that wasn’t claimed by wealthier people. However, it has also adopted certain other American favorites, like macaroni and cheese.

Soul food originated in the South, but it came to New York when large numbers of African-Americans sought factory work in major northern cities during the early 20th century. The most famous purveyor of soul food in the city is currently Sylvia's restaurant, in Harlem.

Andrew Jackson, executive director of Queens Library at Langston Hughes, says soul food is a time-honored African-American cooking tradition that celebrates the best in human creativity and resourcefulness.

Jackson’s family migrated from Mississippi to New York City around WWII and brought their soul food traditions with them. But Jackson is quick to dispel any misconceptions about food and African-American culture.

“Spaghetti is not necessarily a soul food dish, but my family loves spaghetti,” he says. “Everybody does not eat chitlins [chitterlings, a dish of boiled, baked or fried pig’s intestines]. Chitlins is a specialty. I tried it once, didn’t like it, haven’t eaten it since.”

Jackson also points out that families don’t necessarily make all the dishes at the same time — often this only occurs on holidays, large family gatherings, or church events.

Jackson says that when he has the chance to eat it, he doesn’t have a particular favorite soul food dish.

“I’ll try everything. There’s a blending taste with all of them that you get that you can’t get all the time,” he says. “It’s almost like paying respect to the ancestors for providing this tradition to me.”

Want to try soul food for yourself? Queens Library has you covered with books galore – and a few fine places to order soul food here in the borough, curated by our staffers:

A Plate of Soul

110-46 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

 

Burgandy’s Café

153-35 Hillside Ave., Jamaica

 

Maxine’s on the Boulevard

11333 Farmers Blvd, St. Albans

 

Poor Freddie’s Rib Shack

157-06 Linden Blvd., Jamaica

 

Rockaway Fish House

141-22 Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica

 

Seamorhen Fish & Chicken

118-29 Guy R Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

 

Southern Flair Restaurant

169-77 137 Ave., Rochdale

 

Southern Girls Soul Food

219-17 Merrick Blvd, Springfield Gardens


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Yes indeed! I have enjoyed soul food since I was in my twenties! Odd right? I am a 52 year old African American woman. However, my mother cooked very bland food due to my father was a diabetic. The food like macaroni and cheese never appeared on my plate. My grandparents, (on my mothers side) were 7th Day Adventists..which means that No Pork should touch our lips!

My life as a child was fun and enjoyable, but did not incorporate soul food. My mothers best friend was Irish American and she lived my family from the time I was five years old until I was 12 years old. I was eating mushrooms, liver, gefilte fish, white fish from Sweden and several other places.

My food substances were varied, and good tasting but no buttermilk biscuits, no ribs, no fried porgies, or even fried whitting! ; and Most definitely NO CHITTERLINGS!

What you say? Yes it is true. When I began college my mother was attending health seminars. I learned about nutrition and healthy eating. I began to cook vegetarian foods, egg plant lasagna pasta, and even veggie burgers too.

But nevertheless, still NO SOUL FOOD! When I got married at the age of 28 I learned about the joys of soul food from my inlaws. My husbands parents were from Augusta Georgia. I was shocked to smell this great food wafting throughout their Tudor Brick home in Cambria Heights Queens. They had a two story elegant brick home with a gigantic sprawling front lawn with a bay window.

The house was impressive enough compared to my mother's St. Albans Bungalo.home. We had a super sized back yard that could hold a two car garage and three separate back yards and a swimming pool (five foot 30 wide). But sadly my mom did not cook soul food. We would have barbecues, but I do not even recall my mom making food like potato salad the soul food way.
To my surprise I thought I had fell into a wonderland of African American food pleasure!

My husband and I lived at my inlaws for a year and then got a nice apartment in Richmond Hill Queens. During the year my husband and I, (rather I)---feasted on the extremely well cooked soul food of my in laws.

I would sneak down the stares at night after every one would go to sleep to squirrel away fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Sometimes my father inlaw would make a three cheese and three type of meat lasagna! WOW! I gained so much weight my first year of marriage. My inlaws were very healthy people they were thin. They did not over eat this food because they ate this food since they were children. I did not eat that way so every meal was a delight!

I had never tasted such delicious food before!

Well since that time I have enjoyed Poor Freddies Rib Shack, Southern Girls Sou Food and a host of others.

I still follow nutritional methods….just watch your oils, and butters, and starches. Watch out for heart health as well. I did a blog River of LifeLisaJoy@ wordpress.com, once on how to cook Soul Food with a Heart Healthy ideal!
Thanks for this!

shalom!

Sincerely,

Elesheva


Yes indeed! I have enjoyed soul food since I was in my twenties! Odd right? I am a 52 year old African American woman. However, my mother cooked very bland food due to my father was a diabetic. The food like macaroni and cheese never appeared on my plate. My grandparents, (on my mothers side) were 7th Day Adventists..which means that No Pork should touch our lips!

My life as a child was fun and enjoyable, but did not incorporate soul food. My mothers best friend was Irish American and she lived my family from the time I was five years old until I was 12 years old. I was eating mushrooms, liver, gefilte fish, white fish from Sweden and several other places.

My food substances were varied, and good tasting but no buttermilk biscuits, no ribs, no fried porgies, or even fried whitting! ; and Most definitely NO CHITTERLINGS!

What you say? Yes it is true. When I began college my mother was attending health seminars. I learned about nutrition and healthy eating. I began to cook vegetarian foods, egg plant lasagna pasta, and even veggie burgers too.

But nevertheless, still NO SOUL FOOD! When I got married at the age of 28 I learned about the joys of soul food from my inlaws. My husbands parents were from Augusta Georgia. I was shocked to smell this great food wafting throughout their Tudor Brick home in Cambria Heights Queens. They had a two story elegant brick home with a gigantic sprawling front lawn with a bay window.

The house was impressive enough compared to my mother's St. Albans Bungalo.home. We had a super sized back yard that could hold a two car garage and three separate back yards and a swimming pool (five foot 30 wide). But sadly my mom did not cook soul food. We would have barbecues, but I do not even recall my mom making food like potato salad the soul food way.
To my surprise I thought I had fell into a wonderland of African American food pleasure!

My husband and I lived at my inlaws for a year and then got a nice apartment in Richmond Hill Queens. During the year my husband and I, (rather I)---feasted on the extremely well cooked soul food of my in laws.

I would sneak down the stares at night after every one would go to sleep to squirrel away fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Sometimes my father inlaw would make a three cheese and three type of meat lasagna! WOW! I gained so much weight my first year of marriage. My inlaws were very healthy people they were thin. They did not over eat this food because they ate this food since they were children. I did not eat that way so every meal was a delight!

I had never tasted such delicious food before!

Well since that time I have enjoyed Poor Freddies Rib Shack, Southern Girls Sou Food and a host of others.

I still follow nutritional methods….just watch your oils, and butters, and starches. Watch out for heart health as well. I did a blog River of LifeLisaJoy@ wordpress.com, once on how to cook Soul Food with a Heart Healthy ideal!
Thanks for this!

shalom!

Sincerely,

Elesheva