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  • Writer's pictureAshley Lee

What is African-American Food?

There are many thoughts on how to define African-American cuisine..

What is African-American cuisine? Is it the food of African Slaves, the food of the South ‘Soul’ food of the 1960s and 1970s, or neo-soul? African-American food has been re-defined other centuries most significantly in the mid to late twentieth century. “ From its ingredients to its techniques and its hospitality, rituals, and ceremonies, the continent has remained a vivid memory: one that left its mark on its displaced children in the New World” (Harris, 2011:19). That vivid memory comes in the form of food. African-Americans who have had their ancestors born and raised in the United States since the times of slavery do not have an image of Africa and many do not have knowledge about the history of their own foodways. Why is that? One reason could be due to the fact that history of Africa and the diaspora is transferred orally; it is a “living knowledge” (Witt, 2004:13) and possibly at some point in time stopped being culturally transmitted by African descendants. However, African-American and Soul food culinary traditions are not totally being lost. African-American/Soul food tied to social and political movements and also a symbol of cultural heritage and reminder of the history of African-Americans journey to freedom since slavery. African-American cuisine is food, but it is not only food. African American/ Soul Food is a metaphor for African-American presence in the United States and also the presence of African diaspora in America.

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