Out of Class Journal Min. 500

Question Description

For this out of class journal, read the article and then answer 4 or more of the questions below--the goal is to fully understand the article as well as reach 500 words for your journal entry!

Questions to consider for Soul, Black Women and Food

What 3 pieces make up the “puzzle” of the Black woman?

Describe the importance of roots?

Why were seeds so important to Blacks/Africans and what seeds did Africans bring to the US?

What does a plump body represent to the Black woman?

Describe the cooking habits of Black women?

When blacks move away from the “ghetto” to the suburbs, do they lose their cultural food identity?

What is at the core of Black food celebrations?

Describe feminine and masculine roles related to food as described by Hughes.

In a Black kitchen, how many meals are prepared a day and what is the importance of a hot breakfast?

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Soul, Black Women, and Food MARVALENE H. HUGHES Women's search for personal identities has probably never been pursued so actively i l l the United States as during the escalation of the Women's Liberation movement. At the, same time the sex revolution is in progress, the collective consciousness of personkintl seems to be gravitating back into the history of time in search of roots. Alex Haley', Roots and the televised saga of Roots highlighted in me, and I believe many people, thc quest for ancestral cultures and genetic origins. This is indeed a century when history must record the presence of a collective consciousness that presents a mental mirror reflecting back into the ages of time. In these reflections each of us hopes to find missing pieces of our life's puzzles. As a Black woman, some pieces of my puzzle will relate to my African ancestry; some pieces will relate to the Black struggle in U.S. history; and other pieces will relate to my female identity. One of the most symbolic tools that may be used by Black Americans in our search for roots in food-soul food. The essence of Black culture has been handed down through oral history, generation after generation in the African tradition, through the selection and preparation of soul food. The dominant figure in the cultural translation through food is the Black woman. Her expressions of love, nurturance, creativity, sharing, patience, economic frustration, survival, and the very core of her African heritage are embodied in her meal preparation. In addition, the effects of Euro-American traditions on her African culture may also be transmitted through her cooking traditions. The roots of plants are basic to the meaning of soul food. Roots represent the state of being grounded and the state of stabilization. The choice of roots as a basic Black food can be traced to the African tradition. "Yams and sweet potatoes have provided an unbroken link in the Black man's diet from sixteenth-century Africa to twentiethcentury America."' Accessibility to the roots of plants is preserved by possession of seeds. Forced to leave their native land, their home, family, and African tribes, many slaves brought seeds with them. The watermelon seed, for example, now a symbol of the Amer.~ slaves brought ican South, was introduced to this country by enslaved A f r i ~ a n sSimilarly, okra, which later became a key ingredient for the preparation of gumbo, a New Orleans, Blacks use okra as a special seasoning supplement to "greens," French-related d ~ s hSouthern .~ a term used to describe leaf vegetables like collards and turnips. The determination to hold on to native foods by bringing seeds into this country may ' Soul, Black Women, and Food 1 movement. At the 273 be symbolic of the ever-present determination to preserve the African culture through food. Black-eyed peas were introduced to this country in 16744 and other seeds,.such as the sesame seed, followed. In clinging to the seed, Blacks proclaimed internally (to themselves) and externally (to the world) that they would maintain an African ethnic identity through food. Blacks have sought many avenues to the maintenance of Black identity in U.S. cultures; soul food became one preserver of Black culture. Food remains one of the Black woman's self-concept expressions. Through her mysterious, spiritual self-confidence and through her arrogance in food preparation; the Black woman gains a sense of pride.as she watches her extended family-her man, her children, and maybe her grandparents, sisters, nieces and friends--enjoy the soulful tastes and textures prepared by her skillful hands. Even when she prepares meals as a way of making a living, she takes pride in watching her consumers literally gorge themselves until the fatty tissue forms and finds a permanent resting and growing place. Plumpness is s symbol of the wonderful job which she is performing. Even when her job occupation is food preparation for White America, her success symbol is plumpness. A big body to the Black woman represents health and prosperity. The interrelatedness of the concepts "big" and "beautiful" is 'African. Bigness represents health and prosperity, but in America thinnessis beautiful. Having learned these Americanvalues, could it be that the Black woman (and Black man) enjoy making White America fat and "ugly" by its e many people, the ts a mental mirror lopes to find missY pi ' will relate n U.3. history; and cans in our search :age are embodied ons on her African ,epresent the state :ica to twentieth)ssession of seeds. My mom receives a lot of praise from her nine children and her grandchildren when is cooking. Like many Black woman of her generation, giving birth to nine children a p1anned;pleasant accomplishment. In giving birth to many children, the Black ody. . . . this is my only opportunity to experience the feeling of plen en I have-the opportunity to -visitmy mom, she seldom spendstimehaving-long hen there.-arebig family gatherings, Iletirn a lot about my roots as I listen to-accounts presentedrorally by al1:of .the family members. Seldom-does my mom.talk ,about the meaning of,getting fat and:enjoying food,-.~et almost all of her day is devoted .to.the kitchen. She is happiest when she satisfies our oral-cravings.It is obvious as she mixes together a."handful" of, a "pinch" of, a "dash" of, that her culinary creativity is much like other Black women who defythe rules of measurement and.scientific.cookingprecision, Many Black .peopleof her generationnever used recipes or measuring instruments. In fact,Hessand Hess5 note that the.deliberate illiteracy that slavery perpetuated made it necessaryfor many:Black cooks to have recipes i-eadlto-them.Slaves were accustomed to their African cultural cooking, and they have to learn European techniques in order t o become -"goody',kitchen.maids' as prescribed by Western traditiow6 The European cooking techniques underwent many adaptations as theB1ac.kwoman added her African touch and -her soulful intucprogress .in food in favor of :her -basic ' " .g@j > .%:a: .T%t:3 ~. @* ~ $$;$% &$ i??$ ,,%.. jilF c~:zyq .>q;?<3 3gJ & .5 , :gZ5 I &G* s:,m . ~ S g p $3 yj:s && rra .-d % ;!5 f+ szie 5;s %.+ a2+j.t F g >,: :;.:* , .- '$ .:?+ ? ;< ;$ e....;. : -,W .-:= B;;*$ &$ ? . $:$xe$ >?a. +;" 'i ii .d r> ...2:; %$>$: : ~* *,,%S> 2g ><$j ?.?El gY cultural knowledge and intuition. Sometimes this serves to her advantage, especia a progressive technological era when the effects of food consumption and food pre vation practices on health are often determined after the fact. I did not concern m with preservatives and additives in frozen foods when I was with my mom, for exa ple, because we always had fresh vegetables and fruits. Even now, among the Blacks, observe many of these fresh food practices. I believe as we Blacks increase our working hours, the soul-food ritual of home ing is still observed. I do not fully accept that eating out is less frequent among Blac because it represents sheer economic deficiencies.'Thisconcept of economic deprivati denies the cultural preference for a soulful home-cooked meal. The vegetable trays our refrigerators are stocked with the closest thing to mom's garden we can fmd at t grocery store. Local grocers tend to stock our greens and fresh vegetables when we are ghetto-ized. When our middle-class socioeconomic status takes us to the suburb, w often drive into the "ghetto" in search of soul food-another indication of Black folk commitment to preserve "soul" in food pre~aration. When I recently embarked on my gardening fling, I noticed that my garden was di ferent from my neighbors' garden. I had corn, black-eyed peas, squash, watermelo string beans ("snap beans" as we learned back home), radishes, beets, green peas ("En lish beans") and tomatoes (just like mom's). My neighbors shared with me their curiosi about my garden. First, they could not identify by name some of my vegetables. S ond, they had no comprehension of the personal fulfillment that I received in producing and cultivating the garden. My garden gave me a sense of pride and took me back to my family roots. When I could dig into the earth, observe the growing results of my cultivation of the soil, and become an active participant in my food production, I becam reconnected with my African culture in a private, intimate, historical sense. My garden represented a regeneration of the earth, a spiritual connectedness that allowed me to pay homage to the earth; it provided me the channel to relate my African respect fo land and living things to my African spirituality. Presently, I live m Del Mar, California, where the local grocers have a scanty, occasional supply of collards, turnips, and black-eyed peas. I have never seen pigs feet, pigs tails, chitterlings, and hog jowl in stock in the local stores. Unfortunately, my Black friends -.*, <.<>+ !t: !J +:.3>j .,., j;:=i 3~ ..,4 C ( > .;. .. zz:YT ;2&-w+ - :*-ii*. 8 :-- &ti& Li;z s)22 >3.:;-: 9;;. ?:;I? S T . - :;:.:F . =i: . pp! .s2.- & g.s : + believe that whether we live in the suburbs or the ghettos, there-is a bond among Black folks-Black food'culture is one of the connecting links which transcends geography. At a typical Black potluck dinner, whether in the suburbs or the ghettos, there are ham hocks, pigs feet, neck bones, pigs tails, potato salad, sweet-potato pie, and the "escargot of soul food," chitterlings. Soul food is an expression of the central core of Black culture. Black recipes, like the Black culture, are handed down from generation to generation by oral African history. Black culture itself has survived through oral history. Theword "soul" is a part of Black history that represents a cultural ComDactness. "Is she soulful?" "Can he dancesoulfully?" "Does she make soulful music?" "Can she make good soul food? "Would you believe that he knows how to make soul food?" I have heard all those questions repeatedly, and I have never felt that they were clichks. Having soul is knowing that when the human layers are peeled away there is a hidden, impenetrable gem, the sapphire. Soul, Black Women, and Food vantage, especially in eion and food preserd not concern myself my mom, for exam, among the Blacks, I ritual of home cooklquent among Blacks conomic deprivation he vegetable trays in en we can find at the ~bleswhen we Blacks us to the suburb, we :ation of Black folks' my garden was dif:quash, watermelon, ts, green peas ("Engith me their curiosity my vegetables. Sec:ceived in producing nd took me back to ng r- -1lts of my culrod .on, I became a1 sense. My garden that allowed me to African respect for t have a scanty, occar seen pigs feet, pigs ely, my Black friends In that middle-class he suburbs. I firmly bond among Black nscends geography. :nos, there are ham pie, and the "escarack recipes, like the iral African history. I" is a part of Black :an he dance soulfood? "Would you ;e questions repeatwing that when the 275 The "human layers" in the Westernized American culture are thick. They embrace a set of values that are filled with contradictions and confusions for Blacks; they signify the polarities of a Western society with an abundance of labels: good versus bad, power versus powerlessness, beauty versus ugliness, Black versus White, smart versus dumb, advantaged versus disadvantaged, educated versus undereducated, privileged versus underprivileged, thinness versus fatness, soul food versus European foods, poverty versus wealth. The word "versus" in the American culture portrays an extremely low tolerance level for differences and pluralisms. It is, therefore, difficult to perceive the true meaning of "melting pot" since the American melting pot is not fluid. Instead of blending cultures, it superimposes the Euro-white-American cultures over other non-Euro-white cultures. In so doing, it tends to place positive, ruling powers on the Euro-American groups and negative, nonruling powers on peoples of color and Judeo identities. While Jewish people have gained power by mastering skills of economic rulership, peoples of color-Blacks and Browns-have not gained equal economic access. When Blacks accept the labels of Western polarities, I am concerned. I am concerned about how Black people adopt many of the same Western cultural concepts that are used to perpetuate hierarchical social-class structures, and thus, Black oppression. As Black people, we recognize the institutionalization of labels, and we commonly accept that power is rationalized and, indeed, perpetuated through labeling. (By power I mean legislative power, money, educational access, institutional access, and "success" access.) Yet, some Blacks use those same power strategies on each other. A beautiful word, like "soul," for example, is a victim of this culture's labeling. "Is she soulful?" presupposes that there are deselection criteria, or that on a scale of one to ten, you can measure her soulfulness. Black sisters and brothers are all soulful; that, for me, is the real essence of the word "soul." Black food is all soulful, too. All black-eyed peas are soulful whether prepared in a Black person's kitchen, a white kitchen, or a Jewish kitchen. Just as Blacks have adopted Western behaviors, many aspects of the Black culture have been adopted by non-Blacks. One of my white friends prepares black-eyed peas and ham hocks for the New Year's Day party. I once asked him where he learned how to do that. "I am from the deep South," he replied. The Southern Black Belt, where slavery in this country was concentrated, provided a vast cooking (and therefore, cultural) repertoire through the Black woman's domination of the white kitchen. There was and is today an informal Black kitchen network that subtly penetrates white America. Reflecting the mobility of contemporary society, Blacks today are scattered throughout most of mainland U.S.A. Despite affirmative action legislation, the professional upward mobility of Blacks in the United States has not changed significantly. In fact, the gap between Black and white professional advancement has widened. There remains a heavy domestic professional concentration of Black women (and Black men) either in family kitchens or in commercial food preparation. We cannot dismiss the fact that this domestic cooking role of Black women is a historically acquired role definition assigned her by slave masters. Cooking, professionally, is a position of servitude both economically and politically. Politically, the message the Black cook receives is that it is her duty to nurture white Americans by cooking their meals, taking care of their children, cleaning their homes, and doing the laundry. The kitchen-bound/domestic-boundBlack woman is still in slavery. Her economic plight is still destined for poverty. f (1 $+ ? % Marvalene H. Hughes Economics dictate the lund of food a family can purchase. The Black wornall 11.1.. demonstrated that economics cannot control her soulful creativity in the prepararlllll of foods. Consider some of the classic foods that are labeled soul food: pigs feet, I ~ ; I I I I hocks, chitterlings, pigs ears, hog jowl, tripe, cracklings, chicken backs, giblets, chiclir.~~ wings, and oxtails. All of those were initially leftovers or "throw-aways" given to Blnc.l,,, who wanted to believe they were in a land of plenty. For Blacks in this country, life 11.1.. been a perpetual process of leftovers: leftover food, leftover jobs, 1ef;over houses, Icll over textbooks, leftover schools, leftover big cars, leftover communities, leftover everythi~l,:. Denied educational and economic opportunities, the Black woman (and the Black rn;irl I stood in line for leftovers. The survival-oriented Black woman trusts her creative skills to "make something 0111 of nothing." She acquired the unique survival ability to cook (and therefore use) all par[\ of everything. She cooked the portions of a hog that the master (and white Americ;~) discarded; she cooked the roots and leaves of plants; she cooked leftovers. Blacks 1ear11 to enjoy the leftovers and turn them into special treats. When the Black woman demo11 strated how good the leftovers could be, "leftover foods" became a household word i l l white America. It is now common practice for food manufacturers to package many of these leftovers-ham hocks, oxtails, and chitterlings-and deliver them to some of the most economically elite communities in America. Eldridge Cleaver refers to this trend as white America':. "going slumming" a t t i t ~ d eH . ~e cautions us to remain alert to the economic and political realities that not withstanding the fact that the white culture eats chitterlings, thc ghetto person wants steak. Eating soul food for white America represents a food cultural plunge, and it epitomizes the acculturation of white America through Black foocl Soul food represents a Black spiritual ritual deeply embedded in the culture of AfroAmericans. Black people discovered centuries ago that a spiritual core is vital to survival, and that the development of Black ego and pride-building can take place most forcefully in the Black religious institution. Used to maintaining a personal balance in times of struggles, the Negro spiritual portrays the message throughout history that life will become brighter, happier-someday. "Swing low, sweet Chariot, Cumin' for to carry me home." The relationship of Black religion to food practices is not parallel to other religion's practices with food. Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Seventh-Day Adventists, and other religious groups practice food doctrines which set apart certain foods. Generally, "unacceptable" religious foods may also dictate special days when foods may or may not be served, or when food preparation is prohibited altogether. Although some Black people in the United States are now affiliated with religious groups that adhere to food selection and food-scheduling principles, in the mainstream of Black religious cultures, this food norm is not practiced. Eating during a spiritual, religious ritual connotes a special celebration for Blacks. When a pastor is ordained, when there are baptisms, when there are "footwashings" at the Primitive Baptist Church, when special holidays approach, Black church yards are replete with spreads of soul food. Soul food a t Alack church meetings c o n v c r t thc - - - - Soul, Black Women, and Food B I ~ goman has in the preparation )od: pigs feet, ham ks, giblets, chicken ys" given to Blacks ]is country, life has hover houses, leftleftover everything. ~ n tdhe Black man) lake something out refore use) all parts nd white America) overs. Blacks learn ck woman demonhousehold word in nany of these lefte most economically 3s white America's :onomic and polit~ t cshitterlings, the resents a food culhro Black food he culture of Afro:is vital to survival, : place most forcea1 balance in times istory that life will to other religion's xy Adventists, and I foods. Generally, foods may or may hough some Black hat adhere to food religious cultures, )ration for Blacks. re "footwashings" black church yards :eti~lc-c onvert the 277 religious, spiritual festivity into a communal Black gathering. The Black preacher, the symbol of oral traditionalism, has the privilege of receiving the choice foods, such as chicken thighs and legs. For Black people the dark pieces of the chicken are the "choice" parts. Whether on the church ground or in the Black home, the Black preacher is the first to choose his food, and other Blacks yield to his sacred position of spiritual religious wisdom and cultural power. Perhaps more than any other personality, the Black preacher transmits the oral African history. He has learned the art of translating history orally, and the ring of his voice provides appropriate intonations to connect with the spiritual souls of sisters and brothers in the congregation. In addition, t ...
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Soul, Black Woman, and Food
Student’s Name
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Soul, Black Woman, and Food
Pieces Making the Black Woman
History has quite always found a way of repeating itself; the black woman traces the
pieces of her puzzle to the African ancestry, she is further defined by the Black struggle in the
United States’ history throughout slavery, servitude, and segregation. Black women roles
complete the puzzle where other pieces are symbolized to the nature of her female code,
motherhood, nurturing, and other feminine occupations. The Black woman is a crucial player
in the existence of the human race; her craft in the society in self-evident in the role she plays
in the soul...

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