“…. Soul food is an African-American cuisine that can be traced back as far as African, however, the term itself was not coined until the mid-1960s. It also comprises an important element of the cuisine of the general American south. Soul food was adopted and modified during the African slave trade and it was during this time food African cuisine and southern European cuisine became one big melting pot. Traditionally-prepared soul food has the tendency to be very high in starch, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories. This has been very problematic for the black community because it increases the risk of diet-related diseases such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The preparation of soul food is the key element of diet-related diseases. Some preparations would include reusing lard, increasing the acceptable amount of sugar, large quantities of salty meats, and overcooking greens. Collectively, have an increased impact of the overall health in the African-American community.”, History of Soul Food, essay Unknown author (https://www.123helpme.com/essay/History-Of-Soul-Food-751930)
There are not many more challenging subjects to discuss than the dietary standard of one’s family. Pathology dictates that what an individual considers to be “good food” is generally relegated to the very upbringing and community in which an individual exists. For millennia humanity has lived, fought, died and participated in every activity of life based upon one reality…. that reality is, “How did I grow up?”. Throughout this essay I will attempt to reason with you about the inconvenient and true history of the diet of the former slave, now free so-called negro or African-American. This history is ripe with confusion is misapplied attribution of African traditions mixed with the dual history of African Enslavement, in the Western hemisphere, and African Continental colonization. Both of which, as you will see, have had long lasting effects on both the African and the Indigenous people all over the Western hemisphere and the Pacific. This essay is not an attempt to direct anyone away from any particular diet or belief but is simply designed to give a balanced history to an elusive subject, often ignored, due to the controversy of its history by some.
To begin, let us follow the exploration of the inhabitants of European continent and their mission, as commissioned, by the various churches and businesses of Europe during the European Enlightenment period. The brief history as outlined in my book, Checkmate! The War for the Black Mind, is that Europe gained a knowledge of the world, believed the Earth was flat, sought out to disprove the notion of a Flat Earth and commissioned explorers (Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Columbus) to find the “New World”. The explorers’ job was to find any wealth or commodities that can be exploited by Europe for wealth. At this time in history Europe was in its Enlightenment period or the 16th Century. The unfortunate history of the uneducated European masses was numerous. The typical European did not know that the Earth was round, unlike the others of the planet that knew the roundness of the Earth and the relation of the earth in the solar system. Well known to the indigenous people were the planets and their circular nature, the solar systems and what we should and should not eat as human beings. This knowledge was fairly new or even unknown to the European due to their isolation in the hills and caves of Europe for thousands of years.
The Church of England, the Vatican, and European rulers proceeded to “explore” Africa, Asia, and now the New World also known as the Native America. For Spain, the Spaniards were very enraged at the conquest of Spain by the African Moor Muslim. The Southern Italians were upset at the conquest of the lower islands of Italy, namely Sicily. In these respective areas of Europe, the African Moor prohibited the consumption of pigs and other scavenger animals that were forbidden under the law of Islam and forbidden under the law of the Torah. In their rebellion to Spanish Jewish Law and African Islamic law the Spanish rebelled and after securing their regain of power of Spain and Italy pushed out the early Jews and the African Moors.
This rebellion to the Restrictive Laws of African Moor in particular made the Spanish Rulers to demand that pork or pigs become the food of choice for the Spanish People and the colonies in the future of the Spanish world domination. Please remember this point as you look at the current state of South America, the Caribbean Islands and the American South. Furthermore, the creation of the Hamitic Lie as created by the European Adherents to the Babylonian Talmud-
(One volume of the Babylonian Talmud)
gave license to the European rulers to denigrate anyone of a darker or black hue in color. It is the Babylonian Talmud that gave rise to the idea that Black skin is a curse, also alleged to be the Curse of Ham. This negative psychology of the European allowed for the slave trade to be “morally correct” in their mind and allowed slave traders to dehumanize Africans and Indigenous people all over the world.
This is an important history to understanding the slave diet as when you get into the mind of the slave owner and in particular the slave master you will see that their desire was not to give the slave the best ‘Human” food, their desire was to give “Animals” the type of food suitable for “animals”. The slave quarters of the slave ships were packed to the max and did not have room for much other than rations of corn, beans, oats and water mixed with animal fats and such.
“First published by British abolitionists in 1788, the diagram depicts a vessel of 400 slaves packed in cheek by jowl, some with just 2 feet and 7 inches of headroom. The Brookes was an actual ship that schlepped enslaved Africans to Liverpool, England, and typified the slave vessels of the era: The Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788, which was designed to reduce deaths due to overcrowding on slave ships, allowed each man 6 feet by 1 foot 4 inches of space (women and children were granted slightly less room). By those measurements, the Brookes was able to carry up to 454 slaves. The diagram’s engraver could only squeeze in 400.”- Author, Michael (https://datavizblog.com/2013/03/09/dataviz-history-the-slave-ship-chart-that-kindled-the-abolitionist-movement-1788/)
This ration was enough to sustain most slaves but was not designed to be an optimum “fattening agent”. Once the process of slavery was established in the Americas and the islands known as the Caribbean the challenge of feeding the animal or the slave became clear to the slave owner, they decided to feed to animal slave what the other animals or beasts ate. Here is where the creation the “Slave Diet” begins. As one writer of African American slavery diet commented a few years ago:
“Collards (Brassica oleracea acephala) are not African, they are temperate and Eurasian in origin, but their consumption, and with them—turnip, kale, rape, mustard and other greens are a healthy blend of tastes—West and Central African, Scottish, Portuguese, German and the like. Many culinary historians agree that the green craze in the South is supported by tastes for spring greens among Celtic and Germanic Southerners but was really spearheaded by people of African descent. In tropical West Africa, greens were available year-round in gardens and markets and figured prominently
in regular meals. Unlike Northern Europeans, West and Central Africans had a climate that supported a continuous variety of edible greens from both cultivated and wild plants. Amaranth, celosia, inine (African spinach), and the leaves of cowpeas, cassava, okra, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables helped make up the 30-60 edible leaves prepared during the age of the slave trade. Long before America there were varieties of plants botanically cognate to chenopodiums and phytolacca (read lambs quarter and poke) in West Africa. Often referred to as “relish,” these African greens were made into a sauce to be eaten with rice, fufu or millet and some groups associated them with sacred medicine and vitality.-Michael W. Twitty (https://afroculinaria.com/2016/01/16/a-letter-to-the-newgrorati-of-collards-and-amnesia/)
The history of collard greens, sweet potatoes, kale, peanuts, salt pork, chitterlings, catfish and many other slave foods is very similar to the same culinary challenge around the world of the Indigenous people. The use of pork in the Caribbean and South America just simply did not exist prior to the intrusion of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spanish, single handedly led to the culinary and nutritional demise of nearly 1/3 of the planet’s indigenous people. Over 255 million of the indigenous world population died from diseases in which the Indigenous had no immunities from the European. The colonizer replaced the indigenous diet with the diet born out of rebellion to the Spanish Jewish Law and African Moor Muslim Law. This same mind allowed for the forced submission to the French, Spanish, Dutch, British and Italian Religion, the newly created Christianity. Pigs did not exist in the Pacific Islands either. Until this day the Hawaiian Islands have an invasive species of wild hogs running around the Pacific. Bringing destruction to the island landscape all over the Pacific islands, a legacy left by the Spanish Conquistador.
One must understand that during this period the Europeans did not have an exchange of cultures with the indigenous, it was a forced intrusion of the European way of life that permeated every aspect of the African and the Indigenous people all of the World. Rape, slaughter, death of the indigenous culture and religion gave rise to what you see all over the world today. Now, you can see the effects of slavery and cultural intrusion upon the indigenous cultures in the form of clothing. The women of Bolivia still wear the hat of the colonizers as a tradition today:
(Bowler hat of the Bolivian Women)
Some of the aspects of the African Slave Diet that are not yet reconciled are the introduction of the food into today’s diet. Collards, kale, Sweet potatoes, etc.. were all foods that fattened the cows and the ox. Foolishly, the slave owner thought that these items would do the same forAfrican Slave. The leftover scrap meat of the slave master used to be given to the dogs of the slave plantation but were also give to the slaves themselves, remember, in the mind of the slave owner the slaves were ANIMALS.
As one great soul food schef stated a few years, there are many alternatives to the delicious Soul Food Diet that will allow us to rid ourselves of these pesky foods that harm our digestive system and shame people with cowardice to challenge the heritage forced upon former slaves in order to continue consuming slave food out of tradition:
“The slave rations during slavery were typically, once a week, the enslaved got five pounds of some starch—that could be cornmeal, rice, or sweet potatoes; they got a couple of pounds of smoked, salted, or dried meat, which could be beef, fish, or pork—whatever was cheapest—and a jug of molasses, and that was it. Other than that the enslaved had to figure out how to supplement their diet, so they gardened, foraged, and fished to get extra food. But for a lot of them it was really just eating a lot of vegetables. When people hear “vegan soul food,” they’re like, “What? That doesn’t even make sense.” And I’m like, it’s not an oxymoron. It’s actually a homecoming.” Adrian Miller, Epicurious (https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/real-history-of-soul-food-article)
“In addition to the traditional soul food, one is called down-home healthy. The idea there is that you take traditional soul food preparations and you try to lighten them up on the calories, the salt, the fat. For example, instead of using smoked or salted pork, you would use smoked turkey. You might grill or bake instead of the traditional fry. And then the other trend is upscale soul food, which is the exact opposite. Instead of lightening things up you get really extravagant.”- Adrian Miller, Epicurious, https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/real-history-of-soul-food-article
There is no doubt that Slave Food has a history in poor nutrition and contributes to most if not all African American health maladies such as obesity, hypertension, gout, heart failure, etc... the reason this happens is that slave food is not and never will be human food. This food is passed on from generation to generation with good intentions and family tradition. It is long past time that African descendants of slaves and Indigenous people all over the world rid themselves of the hateful legacy of the colonizers and slave masters that have left their scourge on the world. Let us Eat to Live! Eat more Swiss chard, Spinach and Bok Choy instead of Collards which are too hard on the stomach of humans. Let us make carrot and butternut squash dishes instead of sweet potato and yam dishes which have a sugar content too high for human consumption. Let us eat navy beans and lentils instead of the harshness to our stomachs of black-eyed peas and kidney beans. Let’s eat Whiting, Salmon and Trout instead of the scavenger fish that our ancestors had to eat while enslaved just to survive. Let’s eat Turkey, Quail and Lamb instead of the toxins in pork and improperly raised beef. We owe our lives to those ancestors that fought FOR our lives to be able to free of our former slave masters’ minds and their legacy in our food. Eat to live!
Bok Choy Swiss Chard