Soul Food in 2022
I grew up in a Southern household, born in Fort Worth, Texas to parents who were also born and raised there, as were their parents. Although they migrated because of military service and later the international world of business, make no mistake – they remained southern through and through.
I distinctly remember as a small child my mother coaxing me to try fried okra assuring me that it tasted like popcorn – it did not. To this day, there is simply no redemption for a vegetable that is furry on the outside and filled with seeds and goo on the inside.
Yet, about this time of year, I become nostalgic thinking about my grandmother’s fried chicken, turnip greens, hot bacon dressing over wilted lettuce, steaming biscuits and green beans cooked with salt pork - that seemingly cooked for days, not minutes.
The coffee can, filled with grease drippings used judiciously meal after meal, is lacking on my own counter. I am now part of a world that thinks about food allergies, gluten free products, supplements, milk substitutes and Truvia. The one food that remains an absolute must, is black-eyed peas.
Before I even knew what good luck meant, or the concept of making my own luck, I was forewarned that I wouldn’t have any the following year without at least one bite of these little beans, also cooked all day with bacon. I’m pretty sure I know better now, but who is willing to chance being cursed all year?
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. Originally, they were used as food for livestock and later as a food staple for enslaved people in the South. Because of their lowly reputation, the Union Army troops of General Sherman ignored the fields of black-eyed peas while razing or stealing other crops. Humility eventually catches up with us all and during the harsh winter, the Confederate soldiers survived on these magical legumes. They have now become a symbol of fortune and prosperity in the American South.
The cuisine of the American South is closely tethered to soul food which originated during the Antebellum period with the foods that were given to enslaved black people by their white owners on Southern plantations. It was strongly influenced by the traditional practices of West Africans where this type of bean originated. Because the bean looked similar to an eye in West Africa cuisine it was often eaten as a good luck charm to help ward off evil spirits.
Ultimately, its food that makes us feel nourished and secure and that makes it food for the soul as well. 2022 has shifted so much for most of us. We have come to realize that our reserves are easily depleted, both financially and emotionally. We have rethought and shifted our priorities in many ways. Over 90% of our workforce is looking for more meaningful work where they can contribute to their community and the world at large. Quality family time and a deep appreciation for teachers and healthcare workers has risen. After a couple of years of being on high alert, we are more cognizant than ever of our values and why we must come together as a collective, vigilant and seeking the best for all.
I believe that 2022 will be the year of soul as we get back to our roots, humbled and grateful for what we have learned, for the innovative spirit of survivors and vanguards. I’m confident that it will be one of the best ever as each of us find the nourishment that fills both our financial and emotional accounts, moving us out of the constant doing mode into the appreciative being mode.
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All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore