Bellevue College Multicultural Services along with the Black Student Union hosted a Soul Food history presentation and tasting on Thursday, Feb. 25 as a way to close Black History Month. The presentation was held in Room D106 at 11 a.m. with a soul food buffet provided by Precise Catering.
Presiding over the presentation were Glenn Jackson, director of high school initiatives and Beabe Akpojovwo, a member of the Office of Equality and Pluralism. They talked about how and why soul food was formed. According to Jackson and Akpojovwo, soul food is “a variety of cuisine that originated in African-American culture and is related to the cuisine of Southern United States” and originated when Europeans first started the slave trade. “They had to eat types of food like corn and cabbage that they had never been introduced to before,” said Akpojovwo. Jackson then said African slaves weren’t used to that kind of diet. “It was just a big culture shock,” he said.
In addition to having an entirely new diet, African slaves also didn’t have a very good quality diet, according to Jackson. He said that they were given the leftovers and scraps that the owners didn’t want because “they knew they had to feed them and wanted to feed them for as cheap as they could.” Because of this, African-Americans had to improvise and were soon cooking with new types of vegetables that they found like collard greens, now a staple soul food. “Even though they had only scraps and leftovers, they turned it into a cuisine,” said Jackson.
After giving the brief history of soul food, the presenters talked about types of soul food which included biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, chicken-fried steak and grits.
The event was dedicated to show attendees how soul food can bring people together as it did back when African Americans were still slaves.
The buffet was comprised of collard greens, pork and beans, fried chicken, fried catfish, red beans and rice, cornbread, sweet potatoes, yam pie and a lemon cake.
According to Jewell Evans, a BC employee in the Humanities Department, the food was accurate and authentic. “When I grew up, my parents pretty much cooked everything that was in the presentation,” she said. She expressed her joy that students got an opportunity to learn about the history of soul food and that “they had to change their eating habits because of high blood pressure and other health issues related to how they were oppressed, having to give up high fat foods.”
“I think it’s a huge success for the Black Student Union to bring this together, and that it also got help from the Office of Equity and Pluralism,” said Aaron Hilliard, vice president of human resources.