The term “soul food” was dubbed in the early 1960’s and is said to have it’s roots in slavery and the cooking that African Americans had shared for generations. It was really a way of creating food with very little means and relied on beans, greens, corn meal and pork, according to American Food.
Having arrived before our hotel room was ready at the Frances Marion, we wandered down King Street in Charleston in search of food. Our first stop was at Virginia’s on King for lunch, the start of a southern food journey we have never experienced. Broccoli cornbread accompanied our meal. As I nibbled a bacon bread grilled cheese sandwich, my husband crunched through a fried soft-shell crab sandwich. Yes, he was eating the whole crab, soft shell and all.
My mom, in an effort to feed 8 kids on little money, would cook something she called “soul food” growing up. It was funny. “Funny” is a term that my sister and I have dubbed to mean everything from hilarity to strange to no-words-to-describe-this-current-circumstance. On the merit of cooking with little means and having pork in there, mom’s soul food met the standard, but it was nothing like the cuisine of South Carolina. In fact, thinking back, I’m not sure how that pale, bland dish got it’s name, but I’m pretty sure from no true Southerner. To a California kid who knew no better, soul food was officially redefined in Charleston, SC.
The food experience of Charleston included Carolina barbecue sauces of all flavors and colors, pulled pork, grits, various version of corn bread, cat fish, brisket, hush puppies, fish, pecans. You certainly can have potatoes with every meal and if you prefer vegetables, you got fried tomatoes, coleslaw or collard greens. It seems collard greens are an acquired taste that I am not yet of age for. Carolina ale, sweet tea, watermelon martini…the food scene is endless and more than once I mused at how “soul food” could not possibly be good for the hips or waist!
Needless to say, the gluten free options were minimal and after just a couple stops, you really didn’t even mention it. I spent a week playing dietary roulette, seeing how far I could push it with my food sensitivities in the South. Although very tasty, after a week of soul food, my body is craving a Green Smoothie and carrot sticks and recovering from the departure of my normal diet. But it was worth it y’all.