Written by: RaCia Denise Poston, @raciap_
Here is a typical scene across Black America: it’s the first Sunday of the month and the family gathers for another Sunday dinner. The kitchen and surrounding rooms are weighed down with the mixture of aromas seeping from the pots and pans that are aligned on the stove top and counter tops. An abundance of food means that there will be leftovers for the days to come. Family members impatiently stand by with drooling mouths and excited tastes buds.
The women undoubtedly put their foot, knees, and elbows in the big pot of southern-style collard greens. A lot of sweat, love and care went into the preparation of chitterlings, pig feet, gizzards, neck bones, chicken feet, cornbread, hog maw, turnips, cabbage, black-eyed peas, and the list goes on.
The menu for this Sunday’s dinner is tasty and plentiful, but exceedingly dangerous and will give you more than just a full belly and fulfilled appetite.
This traditional Sunday meal stems from the hot and overcrowded plantation fields that our African ancestors served as slaves on. The standard diet of many slaves consisted of lard, leafy greens, meat, and cornmeal. Rations were limited and malnourishment was common. Given the era, these diets were not optional and slaves were forced to eat what they were given and grow what they could with the resources they had. As I’m sure you have noticed, the aforementioned menu that made you rub your belly in the thought of its delectable tastes is very similar to the meals that our ancestors dreadfully ate.
So, why is it that we are in a new age and time and many of us of still choose to eat like we are in the 1800s?
There are many changes that need to be made in the African-American community and the first change we need to focus on is how we take care of ourselves. We need to once and for all escape and peel away the slave-like habits and behaviors that have been engraved into our culture- starting with what we eat. Meats like Neck bones, chitterlings, pig feet, and gizzards must be eliminated from our diets. These slave foods have been adopted by many generations and have come to be known as “soul food,” but nothing about these items is good for our souls, arteries, or bodies as whole. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in African-Americans. While heart disease can be a result of inheritance or age, two uncontrollable risk factors, healthy eating is known to minimize these risks.
Soul food, indisputably a Southern commodity, sneakily evolved to be a well sought after style of food in America by many races and ethnicities. People travel across the country in search of soul food kitchens. Nonetheless, this still does not negate the fact that these foods were not considered ‘’appetizing” by our ancestors. Slaves were forced to eat chitterlings because they were scraps and never would a plantation owner or his family members eat the intestines of a hog. So, it only made sense to give it to the slaves. Over the years, we learned how to disguise the odors and crude tastes of these scraps by adding large amounts of seasonings and spices to the recipes as well as heavy, artery-clogging cooking oils.
Now look at us. We are plagued and slowly dying from poor health and diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. We are in a time of intensely high racial tensions and whether you believe it or not neo-Nazis are reorganizing and strengthening their ranks to maintain white supremacy. We cannot aid them in their mission by killing off ourselves with these types of diets. Who will protect, educate, and raise our daughters and sons if we are not here with healthy, capable, and well-functioning bodies? Soul food is a tradition and known to be a comfort food, but it’s time for us to get comfortable with healthier foods.
RaCia Poston hails from Indianapolis, Indiana and is a rising senior at Tennessee State University where she majors in Social Work. As a member of the United States Army Reserves and Army ROTC Cadet, RaCia makes it a point to uphold the Army Values in every aspect of her life. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, University Honors Program, a Dean’s scholar, and newly elected Student Government Association President. This summer, RaCia will be serving in the office of Rep. André Carson (IN).