Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

Article excerpt

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. By Adrian Miller. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. [xviii], 333. $30.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-0762-7.)

Soul food needs a "public makeover," says Adrian Miller, and he sets out to deliver rejuvenation using an '"anatomy of a meal'" approach (p. 4). Each chapter turns to a component on the plate at gatherings where soul food is served. Chitlins, cornbread, and collard greens make appearances, but so do catfish, macaroni and cheese, and red Kool-Aid. Miller's strength is his willingness to step beyond previous attempts to prescribe what counts as soul food and instead describe what he finds on actual tables in trips circling out from his Denver, Colorado, home to locations around the United States. He concludes, "Soul food is really more about the African Americans who left the Black Belt region of the South, settled across a nation, and reestablished and reinterpreted the Black Belt South's celebration food in their new homes" (p. 265). Such conclusions and his accounts of the travels undertaken to reach them are reasons to read and value this book.

Miller joins Frederick Douglass Opie (Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America [New York, 2008]) and Jessica B. Harris (High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America [New York, 2011]) in using diaspora and migration to understand mutual influences of African, African American, southern, and other American ways of eating. His text stands alongside Fred W. Sauceman's Appalachian The Place Setting: Timeless Tastes of the Mountain South, from Bright Hope to Frog Level (Macon, Ga., 2006) and Marcelle Bienvenu, Carl A. Brasseaux, and Ryan A. Brasseaux's Cajun Stir the Pot: The History of Cajun Cuisine (New York, 2005) in studying public and domestic kitchens from which community eating practices emerge. Like all these volumes, Miller's Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time combines recipes with first-person narration and secondary and archival scholarship. …

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