Think soul food is only comprised of collard greens, candied yams and ham hocks?
And if you think it only includes Southern cuisine, you may want to reconsidered that, too.
Soul food has been a staple in many black American homes for the past several hundred years. It’s what our ancestors fed themselves and those who enslaved them. It’s what I grew up on and continue to eat, even as a vegetarian.
But there are many misconceptions about this food category, the main one being, as “The Chew” co-host Carla Hall plainly stated, “it’s going to kill you.”
“They think food that is fried. They think food that is heavy. But the agricultural South is really all about the vegetables,” explains Hall, a “Top Chef” alum who is the culinary ambassador of the Sweet Home Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
Hall’s education about soul food echoes the ideas the African-American museum has about the culinary tradition. The menu for the museum’s restaurant, Home Sweet Home Café, includes dishes from four American regions — the West, the North, the South and the Creole coast, reflecting black American’s culinary roots.
“We’re showing how food is such an important part of our experience. I think people know Southern food because there are so many African-Americans in the South and that food sort of comes from that tradition. But I don’t think people know that we eat oysters. I don’t think people think about the pepper pot, the Caribbean and Jamaican influence,” she said, explaining that the restaurant is an extension of the museum’s other exhibits.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture will have its grand opening Saturday. I recently caught up with with Hall at the new museum where we spoke about the museum’s importance, why people should visit and why vegetarian food is soul food.
Watch that interview and the recent episode of ABC’s “The Chew” below.
WATCH: Carla Hall Gives Lesson on Soul Food
WATCH: “The Chew”