Soul Food Never Killed A Soul

Recently I read a NY Daily News article by #StanleyCrouch entitled ‘Soul Food is Killing Black America’ I must say, I was a bit mystified by it. Here I am trying to elevate Soul Food in America and the World and ole Stanley is spewing snake venom in the press. African American’s should know better. Apparently he does not. Today you gone learn! Too many have duplicated this perilous and dangerous language in the media with no evidence to substantiate it. The Truth is; “Soul Food may be the Healthiest Food on the Planet”

I’ve been studying and researching Soul Food for over two decades. I have traveled to and eaten at most Soul Food restaurants in America. Cities: Chicago, Harlem NY, Brooklyn NY, Philadelphia, Newark, Trenton, East Orange and Patterson New Jersey, Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Charlotte NC, Durham NC, Atlanta GA, Charleston SC, Birmingham AL, Jackson MS, Pine Bluff AR, ST. Louis MO, East Saint Louis, IL, Detroit MI, Muskegon MI, Indianapolis, IN, Gary IN, Des Moines IW, Kansas City KA, Kansas City MO, Memphis TN, Louisville KY, Cleveland OH, Dayton OH, Miami. Fort Lauderdale FL, Orlando FL, Tampa FL, Jacksonville FL, Tallahassee FL, Dallas TX, Houston TX, Denver CO, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, and most cities in between. I know what everybody’s doing.

This article by #StanleyCrouch reeks of incompetence and should not be taken seriously. None of these claims are true. To qualify as an expert on Soul Food one must master the discipline of History, Food, Culture and Science. It is glaringly obvious that anyone who writes an article of this nature lacks the basic subject knowledge to even participate in the conversation. Consult with an expert or ‘Stay in your Lane’.

It is not only discourteous to History; it is disrespectful to the Family Tree of every African American including his. This article is deficit of social, cultural and spiritual consciousness and responsibility. Some are better off bringing water to those actually occupying the debate and doing the work.

Mr. Crouch also has plans to produce a like documentary. Culturally insensitive projects like this could potentially affect the business viability of every #SoulFood restaurant in America. Soul Food restaurants have it tough enough as it is because of bogus press from the other side of the tracks. You don’t throw four hundred plus years of American History under the bus for any reason.

Today Soul Food History and culture bears similitude to disregarded record. The equilateral reputation of America’s Food (Soul Food) has been challenged not just by this writer, but by many others as well. We must accept this challenge and meet it head on with the compelling testimony of History and Science.

In many ways ‘Soul Food’ has a remarkably striking resemblance to the lives, reputation, standing, and status of African Americans. Yet the verve of ‘Soul Food’ remains in a class all by itself, on the continent where it was created. The time is ripe to ‘Move’ beyond elementary discourse and inconsequential difference.

Soul Food represents more than just a food created by African Americans. It symbolizes strength, courage, resilience, valor, fortitude and true grit. It also represents the prayers, dreams, ambitions and the unparalleled creative brilliance of an entire culture. Soul Food signifies the very history and foundation of what is present day America.

The cultural preservation of American Food History is important and should never be lost. (Those that understand the food, its history and culture, understand the methodology, strategy and the purpose).  “It’s vital that we uphold our traditions, and that we preserve and protect American History” There’s far too much at stake here. “The Kinship runs too deep”

Even with its rich and unquestionable history, over the past decade plus; Soul Food has received an inordinate amount of negative press and its high-time we set the record straight.

When these negative assertions about Soul Food started, my grandmother asked me a very poignant question. She said, “Emanuel, what happened to Soul Food all of a sudden? Why is Soul Food suddenly unhealthy? Why is it bad for you?

She added, “You know that many of your ancestors lived until they were well into their 90s, and many lived to be over 100. All they ate was Soul Food. How can it be good for them and bad for us?”  She then went on to say, “If it doesn’t smell right, don’t buy it” After many years of research and analysis I am resolute in my findings.

Chip Update 1: The blanket statement that #SoulFood is bad for you is not only erroneous it’s inexplicable. Unhealthy Foods are not culturally specific. Least desirable foods and cooking styles are shared by ALL food cultures of the World. Soul Food was the only food African American ancestors ate, and an astonishing number of them lived until they were well into their 90’s and many into their 100’s. Now how is that?

“The more any line is repeated the more believable it becomes.” The catch phrase #SoulFood is bad for you has become the dense testimonial of the misinformed. Many imprudently voice their opinions without fundamental knowledge on the subject or valid evidence to support it. “Soul Food was healthy yesterday and is even healthier today”

African American Ancestors made do with what was accessible. There were few options available to them. They did what they had to do. The options today are endless.  It’s important that we understand these dynamics.

A Wise Man once told me; “What they do has nothing to do with you.” Likewise, the way some choose to prepare #SoulFood has nothing to do with its overall health benefits and should not affect its rich and unquestionable reputation in any way. Some traditional cultural practices in no way meet the criteria for an institutional indictment of all Soul Food or anything else for that matter.

Chip Update 2: In fact, in head to head nutritional comparisons #SoulFood is far Healthier than Italian, Mexican, Chinese and French foods. Yet, this apparent systemic condemnation focuses solely on Soul Food. The excessive negative press targeting Soul Food does not, but rightfully should include all other foods and cultures in the unhealthy foods conversation. Fact Checker: The menus at many large and popular restaurant chains have enough Calories, Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium built in to satisfy the recommended daily allowance of an elephant and they’re not cooking Soul Food.

All American’s, particularly African American’s should question the actions and motives of writers such as #StanleyCrouch who write rhetoric not founded in trust. If one really cared about what was killing Black America, any writer would start with a little research and refrain from regurgitating first level thoughts, rumors and conjecture. Never in the History of Mankind has a Food been subjected to this degree of degradation and shoved into mortal combat. Why is that? It’s time we had that conversation.

Soul Food like any other food can be and is prepared in a healthy manner by simply using fresh ingredients, leaner cuts of meats, healthier oils, by integrating and alternating cooking techniques and by incorporating additional essential vitamins and nutrients. “It’s NOT the Food; it’s who’s cooking the Food”

The majority of Soul Food is not cooked with Trans Fats.  Such statements are vulgar distortions of historical and culinary fact.  After traveling to every nook and cranny in America, I found that Soul Food cooks today utilize a variety of oils. The oils of choice are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils; the Healthy oils. They include peanut, canola, grape seed, olive, corn, safflower, sunflower oils etc. The most common Soul Food cooking techniques are:  smoking, roasting, baking or broiling, braising, smothering and simmering or slow cooking. There are still some that prefer 17th and 18th century cooking methods that were healthy then and are healthy now. And that’s okay too.

The truth be told, most Soul Food is not deep fried nor has it ever been. Authentic Soul food cooking has always integrated many cooking styles and techniques—frying is just one of them. What about other cultures? Has anyone heard of fried Ice cream; fried cheese sticks; or Generals Chicken? I could go on for days, but you get the point. If #SoulFood is so bad for you, why is there a current trend in supermarket deli’s all across America to serve Fried chicken and Fried catfish? There’s NO such thing as French Fries. We called them Fried Tata’s. The French and Belgians took it home and claimed it as their own. If it’s so bad, how is it that one particular Fried Chicken fast food chain has over 15,000 units Worldwide with 2011 year-end sales of over $11 Billion dollars?  The most famous dish in the World (Barbeque Ribs) is Soul Food. The World has benefited gastronomically and monetarily from the culinary dexterity and overall creative genius of Soul Food.

Chip Update 3: The African American or Soul Food diet is not all fried or comprised of only undesirable cuts of meats as many believe. Today the bulk of the Soul Food diet consists of choice cuts of meats, fish and crustaceans, vegetables, oats, wheat and other grains, legumes, fruits and nuts. Most meats and fish today are not fried. They are broiled, braised, grilled or smoked. The Soul Food diet, cooking styles and techniques are in keeping with most cultural traditions which were healthy yesterday and are certainly in the pink today!

We must focus on fact instead of tittle-tattles and innuendo. Here’s another ‘oops upside your head’.  “The mainstream of the Soul Food diet is comprised of #Superfoods” Soul Food is loaded with vitamins and nutrients.

The very notion that #SoulFood is killing Black America is minus research, nominal evidence or pubescent fact. Try researching the subject or talking to an expert before repeating such risky language.  Don’t judge all Soul Food based on false rumors. We owe it to ourselves and to American History to get it right!

Chip Update 4: “It’s not Soul Food that’s killing Black America, it’s fast food, chain food, foods from many other cultures and Lifestyle factors that are Killing Black America” Most of us don’t even cook anymore and wouldn’t know how if we wanted to. We have become a drive-thru culture. Convenience driven lifestyle shifts are categorically having a deafening impact on the health of ALL American’s, not just African Americans. “The fast-food generation is not being taught the proper history, culture and luminosity of Soul Food” We need to do a better job of teaching them.

“Miniature knowledge of the past and the present is the misfortune of All Americans as much as it is our burden”

There is NO other Food on the Planet that is as Healthy, Delicious, Creative and as Expansive as Soul Food. “Soul Food has influenced food cultures all around the World” It is a thing of Genius and is emulated more than any other food on the Planet! Everybody wants it and they’re playing the name grab game. You may recognize some of these new-fangled marketing terms; Southern Food, Comfort Food, Country Cooking, Korean Soul Food, Asian Soul Food, Italian Soul Food and so on. Today Soul Food and Soul Food History are at risk of becoming “The Lost Art”. In order to #SaveSoulFood and we will; we must alter our thinking”

Anyone attacking or misappropriating Soul Food is going to have to deal with me. Those days are over!

Chef Emanuel Washington

‘ELEVATING SOUL FOOD TO PROMINENCE’


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14 Responses to Soul Food Never Killed A Soul

  1. Drew says:

    Chef,

    I am in a state of shock after reading this article.

    Honestly, I have no words.

    Thanks,
    Drew #SoulFood

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  7. Leonard says:

    So true. You listed so much good info. I think any ethnicity’s food can be healthier or less healthier based on ingredients used. But, to classify a whole food genre as unhealthy is just being closed-minded. Like Chinese food, I’m sure it’s healthier in China – because of the way they cook it!!

  8. CJ says:

    hey chef, you should do your own documentary -the evolution of soul food!

    i think people tend to forget the origins of soul food anyway – our ancestors took the scraps they were provided and made them into such delectable meals that their owners/employers wanted the same food on their tables. also, i think people only think of fried chicken as soul food and nothing else….when obviously there is so much more to consider (and eat).

    ~ Cynthia

    • Chef Emanuel says:

      Hi Cynthia, you are absolutely right. Most Americans don’t really know much about Soul Food. I think it’s important to do a strong piece that will educate America and the World about the History, brilliance and the debt of Soul Food. I think if people knew more about it they would support it, respect it and cherish it as much as I do. It is truly a thing of Genius! The World is ready and they want it!

      No worries, I do have a documentary on simmer. I’ve been writing it for some time. It has been on the back burner because of my restaurant project in Chicago. However, In light of the current circumstances, it has become an immediate priority. I’ve already started my fund raising efforts.

      I want the World to hear the remarkable story of faith, perseverance and unparalleled culinary creativity. This is a story that has never been told in the History of the World. ‘It’s time to tell that story’. Those interested in supporting my ‘SOUL FOOD’ documentary; please contact me @ chef@chefemanuel.com
      “Authentic American History needs your support and so do I”

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