Psychology – Soul Food

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Southern food, also known as soul food, is a traditional and cultural experience that embodies the spirit of Southern hospitality, traditions, and heritage. It is believed that the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch of soul food can evoke reminiscences of childhood, stir up emotions from the past, and aid in creating new memories around the modern dining table. Soul food is an aesthetic wonder, a sensory delight, and a mystical experience. It represents togetherness, happiness, and an inspiring symbol of reconciliation. African American traditional southern cuisine has its roots in slavery, where slaves cooked delectable foods for their masters using new ingredients and a well-tuned African palate. Regional foods like apples, peaches, and berries, nuts and grains soon became puddings and pies. Southern food is cooked from the heart and soul, with love and family gatherings in mind, and is associated with religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and educational attainment. Southern food is a cuisine that touches the soul, embodies the spirit, and unleashes the inner child happiness.

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Southern cuisine is known for evoking fond memories and emotions from childhood, while also generating new ones. This food holds a unique position in the hearts and minds of southerners, representing their hospitality, traditions, and rich heritage with a soulful essence.

John Egerton, a southern writer, describes southern food as being central to the region’s image, personality, and character (Egerton, 1). He also refers to it as an aesthetic wonder, a sensory delight, and a mystical experience (Egerton, 1). Soul food, or what was formerly referred to as southern food, is deeply rooted in African American society and is a traditional and cultural experience. Southern food truly embodies the essence of Southern culture and is intertwined into its very fabric.

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Southern food not only brings joy to your heart but also satisfies your taste buds, serving as a universal symbol of unity, happiness, and acceptance regardless of race or religion. The essence of Southern cuisine is deeply intertwined with the cherished traditions and rich heritage of the South.

The traditional southern cuisine of African Americans originated during the time of slavery, specifically in the kitchens of their masters. These skilled cooks had access to new ingredients and a rich African culinary heritage, resulting in the creation of delicious dishes for their masters. This marked a transformative moment for southern food.

During the time of slavery, the food that slaves prepared became known as “good time” food. On their tables, fried chicken was served alongside sweet potatoes (which had taken the place of African yams) and boiled white potatoes. Regional ingredients such as apples, peaches, berries, nuts, and grains transformed into puddings and pies. Additionally, possum was a preferred meat among slaves due to the limited time they had for hunting – only during the late hours of the night after finishing all their work for their masters.

Throughout generations, the same dishes have been passed down, ultimately leading to the creation of what we now know as soul food. The cooks of the past and present put their heart and soul into cooking soul food. Southern cuisine is prepared with love, passion, and the heartfelt efforts of the cook. Southerners see their food as a reflection of family gatherings and a symbol of love.

Bob Jefferies argues that soul, as a quality, is not inherent in the food itself but rather in the cook and the eater (11). The cuisine known as soul food has its roots in the South and can vary depending on religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and level of education. Many religious gatherings, including church picnics and traditional celebrations, incorporate soul food into their menus. Furthermore, Southern food is closely connected to social class and educational achievement.

John Shelton Reed identifies specific practices that differentiate the current “cultural South.” These practices consist of consuming soul food as a result of financial hardship among southern residents, enjoying grits, appreciating country music, and frequently attending Baptist churches in comparison to the rest of Americans (Reed,6). Reed proposes that individuals demonstrate their modern southern identity by adopting southern culinary traditions, much like how ethnic culinary traditions are embraced. The relationship between socioeconomic status and food consumption is also apparent when educational attainment is utilized as an indicator of social class.

People with lower educational levels have a higher tendency to consume southern food compared to those with higher education. Furthermore, they are less inclined to completely avoid this specific type of cuisine.

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Psychology – Soul Food. (2017, May 02). Retrieved from

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