On Tuesday Feb. 28, there was a History of Soul Food event in D106. The event took place as a part of Black History Month and was organized by Beabe Akpojovwo, program manager of Equity and Pluralism and Glenn Jackson, director of Student Affairs.
The event began with an overview of what soul food was and the historical background behind it. “Soul food is a variety of cuisine that originated in African-American culture. It is closely related to the cuisine of the southern United States,” explained Akpojovwo. “It is important to know the history of soul food and the connection to slavery and African American cooking.”
Soul food originally came from Africa, where foods like okra, rice and sorghum were common parts of the cuisine. These foods were “introduced to the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They became dietary staples among enslaved Africans,” said Akpojovwo.
“For enslaved people, cooking was about culture and community as much as it was about surviving,” said Jackson. He explained that slaves had to eat “what the master or the overseer didn’t want to eat, so it was scraps and things, but you had to eat to survive. You have to stay strong to go work in the fields.”
“Generations of slaves preserved and created culinary traditions that remain strong today,” continued Jackson. “They brought over some of their traditions but had to reinvent the way they went about creating those.” As a result, slaves had to use the food they were given to make the food that they used to have back home. They would eat together, and it was a time where they came together and built community.
Afterwards, Akpojovwo and Jackson hosted a game of jeopardy, quizzing the attendees on their newfound knowledge of soul food. People who had correct answers were given soul food cookbooks and Bellevue College drawstring bags as prizes.
At the end of the game, people lined up to the tables full of soul food to grab a meal full of cornbread, red beans, rice, fried catfish, smoked barbeque pork ribs, baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens. Attendees stacked their plates with soul food and washed it down with a cup of pineapple juice. The food was catered by Precise Catering, a Seattle catering service.
Soul food is centered around the idea of community – enjoying a meal with friends and family. Everyone sat and ate the food together, which represented that idea. The concept of community in soul food is what sets it apart from other cuisine. “Southern food reminds African Americans of our ancestors and the struggle,” stated Akpojovwo. “It is made with love and done from the heart.”