TheGrio Daily

Food for the soul

Episode 91

“There is no such thing as soul food, it’s all Black food, we are the ones who feed your soul.” As our Black History Month conversations continue, Michael Harriot examines Black people’s contributions to cuisine. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network Black Culture Amplified? 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to another episode of theGrio Daily, our Black History Month edition. And of course, all month we are looking at American history, Black history, through the lens of what I call the capitol of Black America, South Carolina. Now, why do I call that the capitol of Black America? Well. South Carolina culture really created American culture, not just Black culture, but American culture. And to explain that, I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will tell you that All Soul Food is from South Carolina. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:55] Today we will be talking about a topic I love food, man. I mean, I hadn’t looked at any surveys or anything, but if you took a poll, I would guarantee, I would guess that most people in America eat, you know, this is a scientific necessity. But I’m just guessing here. But I would guess that like more than 60% of the people watching this podcast now or listening eat sometimes. And one of my favorite foods is sould food. First of all, you have to I have to disambiguate the difference between soul food and Southern cuisine because they’re not the same thing. A lot of people conflate the two. Like soul food is something that is created by Black people. And, you know, has spread across the world. But, you know, southern cuisine is something that they sell at Golden Corral, right? Like white gravy ain’t soulful. It’s Southern cuisine, but it ain’t soul food. One of the things that we talk about during Black history is how Black people influenced the culture of music and art. And I consider, you know, food an art form. Why they call it a culinary art. And a lot of American art was created out of necessity by Black people. And the same is true for the culinary arts. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:34] What am I talking about? Well, what do we think of when we think of American food? Right. We we’re talking really about dishes that were created by Black people. And I’m going to give you a few examples. So when the first white people landed in South Carolina, they were from, they were mostly plantation owners who owned plantations, mostly citrus, Forbes and Barbados. And they thought they were going to be doing the same thing here because the climate was kind of tropical. You know, they thought they could plant and grow a bunch of citrus trees, but it really didn’t work. The soil was too phosphorus. They tried silkworms. They didn’t work. But those plantation owners from Barbados noticed that, you know, even though they were getting sick and they were hungry, they noticed that the Black people weren’t starving. Well, that’s because the enslaved people that they brought over from Africa had figured out how to grow rice. The only place in the world where rice is grown on a mass scale is, you know, there are small little enclaves in Italy. But on a mass scale, it’s just Asia. And the west coast of Africa. And there was like three kind of unique ways of growing rice. And when they brought those enslaved people here, what those slave people essentially did was consult with each other. They created a form of rice that was was more able to grow in South Carolina soil. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:29] Europeans weren’t really eating rice like that before. These Black people brought it to South Carolina. And if there’s like a specific kind of South Carolina rice called Carolina gold, that is probably the rice that you eat today. Like, even when you go to a Chinese restaurant, you’re eating the African form of rice that was brought to America. Not only did they use that and they grow that rice, but they would take the scraps from the livestock, you know. You know, very few slaves had access to steaks and stuff like that. So they they took those scraps that they would get from the livestock after the livestock was butchered, and they would use it to season their food. I mean, there weren’t collard greens in America until they were brought from Africa. Like what we call sweet potatoes didn’t grow in America. Like, really, there are no yams in America still. But that is an African vegetable that was brought over here on slave ships. The same is true for okra. Sounds like we’re making a real good, what I call a low vibrational plate right now. Right. All of those things were brought here by Africans, or created with the ingenuity of Africans. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:56] Like, it wouldn’t be no sweet potato pie if it weren’t for Africans. Right. It wouldn’t be any of that. Those things that you like, even the dishes that you think of as Native American, for instance, cornbread. Well, you know, Native Americans had been grinding corn into meal before we arrived here. But the idea of putting them in a pot or an oven is uniquely African American. Native Americans were, you know, cooking food over a fire. But, you know, the barracoons or people who were kept in cages were doing this unique form of slow roasting underground, of building these own pits, and they passed down these traditions to each other. You know, it dates back to a West African term barbacoa. Which, you know, now we call barbecue. Right. And so these barbecue pit masters. You had to be a pit master to be allowed to roast meat inside or on top of those things that these people had painstakingly built and passed down that knowledge. Right. Barbecue. While it is done in other cultures. It is uniquely African American. Same is true with fried chicken. Now there’s a big, huge debate over fried chicken. Right? So it is true Scottish people were eating fried chicken before they came to America and before, you know, white people had ever heard of it. What Scottish people would do? Was get a chicken kill it, took off the feathers, put it in some hot oil and eat it. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:03] It is an African American dish to bread chicken, put it in hot oil and eat it. Fried chicken as we know it is a Black dish that was brought here by Africans, as a matter of fact. Right. Like those Scottish people, those Europeans, they could not have even considered making that kind of fried chicken. Why? Well, see, the thing is, by that, a man, an African who came here years before 1619, in 1525, as a matter of fact, he went on this expedition, but he also was the first man to grow wheat and mill it into flour. A Black man brought flour to North America. And so, like, we really should own patents to like cupcakes, pound cakes, all of that. As a matter of fact, you know, they call Georgia the Peach State. Well, in 1832, a family from South Carolina left from Orangeburg, South Carolina, and moved to land that had been stolen from Native Americans. And like on their trip, they brought some fruit with them and they brought the man, his wife, a couple of their kids, and 88 enslaved Africans. And they told those 88 enslaved Africans to do two things: build a house and plant those seeds. Well, the seeds had they had unknowingly germinated and they had germinated and combined two different kinds of fruit. They planted them. The result of that planting that fruit is what we now know as the Georgia peach. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:58] And here is an interesting tidbit. That South Carolina family, they were the Fredericks. They intermarried amongst themselves. They moved here from South Carolina. And when I say here, I don’t mean to this area of the country. I am literally recording this podcast on the land at the house that those enslaved Africans built in Georgia that created the peach industry. That’s right. I own it now. I gave it back to the ancestors. And that’s why peach cobbler. I mean, like, we just really created a meal out of Black history where we talked about some fried chicken. We got some barbecued chicken, we got some, you know, some barbecue, like in the South, like all pig pooling is barbecue. We got some candied yams. We got some collard greens, we got some Oprah, we got some rice, we got some sweet potato pie, we got some peach cobbler. All of that meal wouldn’t have been possible without us. Without our knowledge, without our art, and even the seasoning. We create because we grew our own spices down in Charleston and seasoned our own food. And that’s why there is no such thing as Southern cuisine. There is no such thing as American food unless you’re talking about a hamburger. There is no such thing as soul food. It is all Black food. We are the ones who feed your soul. And that’s why you got to keep subscribing to this podcast. You got to download that Grio app. You got to tell a friend about this podcast. And you got to remember that we’re going to always leave you with a good Black saying. And today’s Black thing is, “Good food, good meat, thank God for Black people, because now we can eat.” We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the 

[00:12:30] You are now listening to theGrio Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:38] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of The Blackest Questions on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:12:51] I have no idea. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:52] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom? In 1868, this university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomed medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was it? 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:13:26] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:32] Question number three. Are you ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:13:34] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:35] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:41] Diaspora, darling. 

Amanda Seales [00:13:42] This is like the New York Times crossword from Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:46] Right or wrong. All we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:13:51] I’m excited. And also a little nervous. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:53] Oh, listen. No need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves because Black history is American history. So we’re going to have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five, something to get five out of five, it doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:14:09] Latoya Cantrell. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:11] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Michael W. Twitty [00:14:14] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:15] Hmm. Born in 1754 and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:14:22] I’m going to guess AfroPunk. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:25] Close. It’s AfroNation. So last year. According to my research, and Samuel Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. 

Jason Johnson [00:14:34] Wrong. Wrong. I am disputing this. 

Latosha Brown [00:14:38] Very, very, very rare 99.999. And I’m sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama. Then let you know, Christina, we got some good this come out of Alabama. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:50] There is something in the water in Alabama and you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:14:53] The harder they come. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:55] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:14:56] Oh, wait, the harder they fall? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:58] That’s right. I’m one of those people that just changes one word. 

Diallo Riddle [00:15:01] I mean, I know too well. 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:15:02] I just don’t know that in the day. I’m gonna pour myself a little water while you tell me the answer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:07] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood, Jr [00:15:14] You know why games like this make me nervous? I don’t know if I know enough. Black Dwayne wouldn’t have. How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. They. They, we going to find out in public. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:22] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Black Questions.