Out of Class Journal Min. 500

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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;?,: :;.:* , .- '$ .:?+ ? ;< ;$ e....;. : -,W .-:= B;;*$ &$ ? . $:$xe$ >?a. +;" 'i ii .d r> ...2:; %$>$: : ~* *,,%S> 2g > .;. .. 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, the content of his presentation will have significance, The Black cultural heritage represents a deep inner spirit to share. Blacks have a unique cultural heritage of communal festivities that abound in food sharings at churches, parties, and funerals. Until the mid-60s, Black people had to pack food whenever they expected not to be at home for meals, as Blacks did not have hotel and restaurant privileges in many geographical areas in America. They became accustomed to sharing with other Blacks, even if they were strangers. At the central core of Black food celebrations is the intent of sharing. When there is a hog killing (usually during fall or winter), the neighbors and friends are included. Women play special assisting roles at hog killings; they usually clean the meat, do the trimmings (shave off the fat), cook some samples, give portions to neighbors, and prepare the meat for storage. Men assume the "masculine" chores like slaughtering the beast, removing the hairy covering, and cutting it into major parts, such as hams and shoulders. The hog-killing ritual is one of the few clearly delineated sex-role activities for Black men and Black women. The role definition around hog killings relates to the African hunting tradition. African men were hunters and providers; women were nurturing souls for the children, men, and elders. With "mankind," this phenomenon has been basically universal. However, the institution of "mankind" tends to break down in oppressed ethic cultures where preoccupations are with basic survival. Preoccupied with her individual survival and the survival of her children, the Black woman lost her "female" role identity in this culture. By default, her need to attain economic independence endowed her with the role-freeing experience of androgyny. Basic survival (self-preservation) transcends powers of loyalty attributed to sex gender. Self-preservation does not transcend the power of motherhood, however. Motherhood is a spiritual linking bond that connects the Black woman with her child in much the same manner that she is connected with earth. Given the choice of her own survival and the survival of her child, the child often becomes the surviving recipient. Cooking as a function of sex role is less sex stereotyping (more androgynous) among Blacks because of the Black person's frequent occupational involvement with cooking outside the home. Economic factors and oppressive conditioning have contributed to the androgynous state of Black women. Ladner refers to the absence of protectiveness received by Black women.9 Instead, there was a n implicit message for her to gain independence and autonomy. Using her masculine powers to aspire for personal autonomy, the Black woman always knew that she would not marry an ambitious, business executive or a wealthy heir who would "rescue" her. Whether a domestic worker or teacher, she always thought of herself as a career woman who would contribute to the economic support of the family. Despite her major economic role in the Black family, she would maintain dominance C Marvalene H. Hughes over the Black kitchen and allow the Black man to assume the dominant role in household. This is in contradiction to the sociological myth of Black family matriarc Dominance over her kitchen was her opportunity to reign over the oral, nurturing t ritory of the household; it was, and still is, her chance to demonstrate to her man her family that she is endowed with a special gift of culinary creativity. When the Black man asks, "What's for dinner, Momma?" he is payingher the est possible compliment. Black men frequently address their partners as "momma, the psychological connotation is void of a negative psychoanalyticphilosophy. The t "momma" means "I really dig you." It is fondly used when the Black woman's fo has "stuck to the ribs" or passed the soul food test. Black men use "momma" to ex to their women that there is a connecting soulful linkage. Translated, it means, " African soul meets mine on a deeper-than-surface human level-You are treatin good-You are nurturing me." In a typical Black kitchen three solid meals are prepared daily: breakfast, dinner, and supper. Breakfast most often consists of grits, homemade biscuits, ham or bacon, mola or canned preserves, fresh milk, and fresh eggs. Although bacon and ham are traditionall used for breakfast, it is not unusual to have country-smothered steak, fried chicken, fruits, cut up in creamy milk, biscuits, ice cream, fried chicken, or creamed potatoe Fresh buttermilk is regularly .available to farm families; it is generally served as a di ner or supper drink. (For snacks between meals, I remember how in Alabama we enjoye cornbread mashed up in bowls of butter milk; I also remember baked corn.and fres plums and peaches.) In retrospect, I realize that most of these meals were nutritio although it appeared-tobe an economic selection at the time. Throughout the world food has always been related to culture and economics. Recent1 attention is devoted more and more to nutrition and "health foods." Many consume purchases are made because health foods are "in." But many of the so-called healthfood diets are nutritionally questionable, and they are chosen more often than not for their faddish cultural connotations. During slavery, however; nutrition was give consideration. Masters wanted slaves to be healthy and live longer in order to g irnum work from them. . . . Negroes fed on three-quarters of a pound of bread and bacon are more prone to disease than if with-lessmeat but with vegetables.1° The pro-vegetable attitudes (mess of greens) culturally inherited from Africa and reinforced by the masters still prevail among Blacks.. In earlier history, the masters maintained a largely hedonistic attitude towards their own eating. A casual relationship has been frequently hy~othesizedhetween the nutrition of Hack Soul, Black Women, and Food ~ m h..A . role in the :family matriarchy. oral, nurturing ter.ate to her man and hilosophy. The term ,lack woman's food nomma" to express :d, it means, "Your ZOU are treating me se me to question the social malignancies that cause hypertension (stress due to ecoic and personal oppression, job deprivation, externally caused depression). It is well note that diet may play a less significant role in killing Blacks than the oppressive ditions in American culture. eigh 120, and I am a middle-aged woman. She asks me often, "Are you eating properly these days?" Maintaining my weight at 120 pounds is hard for me, because I was taught to enjoy eating and preparing food. If I ate the kind of food my mom prepares lam are traditiona :s that she or he ha Many consumer le so-called health:often than.not-for on was given prime ;." .en: ' -ion of'Blac NOTES
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Soul, Black Woman, and Food
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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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