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Food and Culture

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The traditional and contemporary food habits of African Americans compared with the typical American majority diet Introduction I have chosen to write on African American food habits because I believe their food tells a story of endurance and adaptability during hard times. I’ve heard the word ‘soul food’ bandied about without actually knowing what the essence of it was. I would like to see what it’s unique features are and to know more about the possible cultural, social and other factors that informed early food choices. There are 41.6 million African Americans which amounts to about 13 percent of the total population. Traditional Food Habits The basis of African American food is ‘soul food’, a term that relates to the ingredients and method of cooking (Airhihenbuwa, Kumanyika, Agurs, Lowe, Saunders, & Morssink, 1996). Traditional soul food was made up of unwanted food given to the slaves by their masters such as the discarded parts of animals, such as pigs’ feet, head, ears and intestines. They were not allowed to consume fresh meat at first. Frying of food and discarded meat without trimming it or removing the skin was a popular preparation method (Bovell-Benjamin, Dawkin, Pace, & Shikany, 2009). African Americans were not allowed to eat the best foods and meat. Later chicken became the essence of this diet. Fried chicken, fried cornbread and cracklings (fried pork skins) were popular and sweet potatoes too. There were lots of meals around fatbacks, beans and chitlins (pig intestines). Cracklin bread was like a delicacy. It was made by frying fat until it was brittle and then adding it to a mixture of water, soda, and cornmeal and then baking it (Dirks & Duran, 2001). There was also simmering of hard meat and food till it was well-cooked (BovellBenjamin et al., 2009). Hot biscuits and homemade bread and grits were popular (Airhihenbuwa et al., 1996)

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