Get To The Heart Of Soul Food With These Words

It’s always a great time to enjoy the Soul. It’s also a suitable time since it will be National Soul Food Month. Before you start digging in, do you know what the word “soul food” actually means and what it is derived from?

The extensive history and vocabulary of the soul-food tradition are rooted in the rules that were part of people of the African diaspora, and its cuisines and practices were developed by the conditions imposed on as well as endured by African peoples who were under the chattel slave system throughout the United States. In fact, this cuisine that you enjoy today is a result of Soul. You are eating today is the result of the creativity of enslaved people who took the simplest ingredients they had available and transformed them into the most sought-after global cuisine, providing nourishment to the body and Soul of people in the US as well as in other countries across the globe.

Take a bite and talk about the places where these tasty meals — and their names come from.

What’s “soul food”?

Soul Food is a traditional Black American cuisine of the American South that blends culinary techniques and traditions of West Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

Chitterlings, pig knuckles, turnip greens, and cornbread are only some of the foods thought to be classic examples of soul food.

Soul food can be described as Southern food. However, it’s not the only type of Southern food is soul food. Seafood-based Southern foods from states such as Louisiana, as well as the coast regions in South Carolina and Georgia, aren’t necessarily soul food, for instance; however, numerous dishes from the inland parts of Georgia, as well as the landlocked areas of states such as Alabama or Mississippi (otherwise called”the Deep South), are. The cuisine of this region has spread across the US during what’s called”the Great Migration” which saw thousands of Black people left the South in the early to mid-1900s.

In the context of this popular food, soul food was first recorded throughout the decade of 1960. It was a slang term used in the 1940s for jazz. The word “soul” refers to an adjective used to describe something that is “of, characteristic of, or for Black Americans or their culture.”

Are you looking for more jazz? Check out this list of jazz-related slang words.

The term “soul food” was first mentioned as a term in Old English and had the literal meaning of food that was nourishing the Soul. Although the intention isn’t identical, the phrase “soul food” is a reference to the original definition in the sense of “spiritual sustenance” created not just by the ways food connects people but also through the shared experience, history, and significance of identity that is a result of the food.

A brief story of “soul food.”

Soul Food’s origins are rooted in West Africa, Europe, and the Americas. It is associated with recipes that were created by enslaved people in the area called the Deep South, sometimes referred to as the Cotton Belt.

The enslaved of West Africa often had to be content with a small amount of resources when forced to travel across the Middle Passage and in the Americas. They relied on ingredients from West Africa, like rice and Okra, as food sources. They also had to use portions of the animal not wanted by the enslavers, including organs of pork and trimmings. Hot peppers and spices from the Americas and techniques for cooking, like the addition of ingredients to stews simmering, helped make the meat more appealing to the palate.

The cooking methods and customs continued to be utilized in this region of the Deep South after the Civil War and the end of slavery. In the Great Migration in the early to mid-1900s, many traveled to other countries and brought their cuisine along with them. Eventually, the soul-food tradition was further refined as the dishes that were typical of the South were adopted elsewhere in cities such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. These Southern recipes made their way to new dining tables across cities in the North as well as the Midwest, and some were slightly altered. Nashville hot chickens, for instance, is a dish made with fried chicken that adds some spice, whereas smoking turkey can be substituted for ham hocks served in collard greens.

Nowadays, soul food is popular in major cities as well as small towns throughout the nation. While some recipes have been updated, at their core, soul food remains rooted in the techniques employed to turn easy ingredients into delicious meals.

Make your cooking a by a level with this explanation of the differences between grilling, smoking, and barbecuing.

Soul food vocabulary

We’ve put together a list of Soul Food essential food items below, as well as their meaning and background. Check out these foods to enrich your vocabulary as well as your Soul.



Sometimes, they are referred to as offal, also known as variety meats, which are the meat that has been butchered from the animal, excluding muscles. It includes cuts like the oxtail, sweetbreads (thymus gland), intestines, as well as hearts and other organs inside. Offal (a mixture of fall falls and off falls, which gives it the literal meaning of “fall-offs”) is often used in main dishes as well as to enhance the flavor of vegetables. These were the organs of animals that were usually offered to enslaved persons and transformed into delicious dishes.



Ground coarsely hominy (corn with bran and germ taken away) that is then cooked until it becomes soft. Hominy is often consumed for breakfast, and items like shrimp or cheese are often added to enhance the flavor. The word originated directly from Old English and referred to coarse-ground cereal grains. Corn is a native of the Americas but didn’t make it in Europe until the end of the 1400s when Spanish traders brought it back to their homelands. Native people were eating coarsely ground corn sprayed with the chemical lye before European arrival.

collared greens


A kind of Kale with an edible leaf crown that is grown across the Southern US. The origin of the name is from the 1700s midway. Collards were cheap, plentiful, and frequently given to enslaved people, but they were also bitter and hard to digest if they were not prepared correctly. The enslaved cooked them slowly, using salt and ham hocks in order to transform them into a delicious and nutritious meal.



Also known as Chitterlings, this is a reference to the diet made from the small intestine of a pig. The word originated directly from Middle English and dates back to 1250 or so. In the South, small intestine was seen as an unclean food item and was provided to enslaved persons. They turned it into a dish by slow-cooking it with hot sauces and vinegar. During the Jim Crow era, there was a belief that Black artists were aware that places serving chitlins were safe to visit, and this led to the term Chitlin Circuit to refer to these establishments.



Okra is a vegetable that originates from a plant that is part of the mallow family. Okra originates in West Africa, and it contains sticky pods that are used to thicken stews or covered in batter and deep-fried. Okra was brought by enslaved people from Africa and planted throughout the Americas to provide food. It was later a regular ingredient on Southern food menus in general.

Ham Hocks


Hamhocks are the joint on the hind leg in pigs that is above the heel. Think of it as the ankle of humans. Similar to chitlins, ham hocks were considered scraps, and enslaved people cooked slowly in order to make it tastier,  often with collars.



An unmixed, rough powder made from corn. Cornmeal is a staple ingredient in many soul food recipes. It is used in cornbread dishes, hush puppies as well as fritter batter. Similar to grits, the use of cornmeal is also derived directly from Indigenous Americans.

Red wine

When it comes to Soul, the food red drinks can be a reference to a range of red-colored beverages. Red is a key color, with ties to the enslaved people who were originally out of West Africa. It is now used to be used to describe punch or strawberry soda, which is typically served during the Juneteenth celebrations.

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