Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adrian Miller

Adrian Miller is the author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: You aim to explore "where Southern food ends and soul food begins." What's the difference between the two?

A: Inside the South, the distinctions between the two are so subtle that it almost seems meaningless. In my experience, black Southerners are just as quick to call soul food "home cooking" or "country cooking." I found that the Southern diet, particularly after the Civil War, is demarcated more by class than race. In other words, blacks and whites of a similar socioeconomic background pretty much eat the same foods. That said, I find that soul food dishes tend to have more intensity than their counterparts in Southern cuisine. They're sweeter, more highly spiced and tend to have a higher fat content--all the things that one would expect from a cuisine using a lot of bland starches and lesser cuts of meat. Then there are the differences in preparation. Soul food joints and home cooks tend to have more bone-in meat selections (neckbones, smothered chicken, and meaty soups) and hardcore offerings like chitlins.

Q: Soul food has developed something of a bad reputation. Why?

A: Soul food has sustained a number of one-two punches over several decades. One punch is psychological. Some soul food critics argue that diners are internalizing white superiority by celebrating and eating soul food since it is the "master's leftovers." The other, more dominant critique is the health consequences of eating a sustained diet of sugary and fatty foods. Exhibit A for the latter argument is the high incidence of chronic diseases among African Americans. Though many of these diseases are diet-related, I don't think that there's been much critical thinking about whether or not traditional soul food is the main culprit. Look, there may be...[read on]
Visit Adrian Miller's website.

---Marshal Zeringue