You may have heard the terms Soul man, Soul music and Soul sister before with the word “Soul” associating those things with the identification of black culture, but have you ever heard of soul food? Adrian Miller, the author of Soul Food: A surprising story of an American Cuisine, One plate at a time, was at Colorado State University on February 25, 2014 to explain to an audience of college students what soul food is, and the connection that it has to the history of the African American Culture.
Adrian Miller’s father is from Chattanooga, Tennessee and his mother is from Helena, Arkansas, so he grew up on a soul food diet. Though his parents are from the south, Adrian Miller is from Denver, Colorado. He has the desire to spread the knowledge of traditional African American food culture to the world.
After spending much of his life in politics working for Bill Clinton, Governor Bill Ritter, and various think tanks and organizations in Colorado, Miller decided to get out of his political career field and spend all of 2011 traveling around the country eating, and all of 2012 writing.
Miller explains that most people don’t really know what soul food is. “The typical mindset of people is ‘oh that’s just stuff black people eat. That’s the food that is going to kill you.’ I like to think that I add some complexity to that.” He uses Chitlins as an example, which is pig intestine. Chitlins, as well as several other soul food dishes like Mac and Cheese and Sweet Potatoes, were once high-end dishes in Europe eaten only by rich people. “Now they have a lowly status because they are associated with soul food. In a soul food context, these foods are seen as the worst things in the world, but when they are served in a fancy white tablecloth restaurant, people think the food is so amazing and daring and ethnic and they end up paying $30 for a meal they could make themselves for only $8.”
Adrian Miller believes that people of all cultures tend eat at “cookie cutter” chains and get into a familiar routine with their food, but they don’t realize that just about everything they are eating was once “ethnic,” and now it’s just mainstream.
“To step out and try something new requires a different mindset. There has to be a willingness to be exposed to the culture. It is critical to have soul food as a vibrant tradition among the African American community, and if we don’t have home cooking in restaurants, the opportunities to share will dwindle.” Miller explains that after a period of desegregation, people seem to be moving back into their own racial camps. He says that the way to expand the knowledge of soul food is simply through curiosity, being brave and trying something new, and then it’s all up to word of mouth.