Saturday, February 28, 2015
Savoring Soul Food Love
Embracing their cultural heritage, both the good and the bad, Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams share the stories of the women who shaped their family's past and their hope to build a healthier future upon that foundation in their book Soul Food Love. It's a compelling story which leads to even greater appreciation for the recipes included in the text.
I come from a long line of Upper Midwestern women who's family heritage includes a solid girth and hearty work ethic--farm wives, blue-collar workers, and homemakers who needed to find a way to stretch the family food budget to feed many mouths. That meant lots of potatoes, pasta and bread. (My grandmother's favorite family gathering meal was chicken and noodles served over mashed potatoes with a side of homemade dinner rolls and jelly. There may or may not have been peas or beans on the side. Meals always concluded with your choice of pie or cake.) This model for eating has left us in the "stocky" category and candidates for stroke and heart disease.
I loved that Soul Food Love includes so many wonderful recipes for getting vegetables on to the table! I find great inspiration in Williams' story of eating the same vegetable (sweet potato) different ways simply depending on the herbs or spices used. Brilliant! You will also find that many of the traditionally fried foods have been redone to include baking and roasting. Even the desserts center on getting fruits to the table and eliminating (or at least significantly cutting) amounts of processed sugar.
The fact that their family could go from large hams to a side of salmon for family celebrations gives me hope that it is possible to change my own food future and steer my family's health in a new direction.
If you grew up with soul food, or have enjoyed the wonderful Southern food traditions in your travels, you will find the requisite flavors present in Soul Food Love. There are recipes for greens, sweet potato pie, peanut chicken stew, shrimp salad and a host of other favorites, although the recipes have been updated and made more healthful.
The book also includes many dishes which were new to me, but contain exciting, mouth-water flavor profiles: carrot ginger soup, broccoli with peanuts and raisins, sweet potato skewers, warm onion and rosemary salad, and "new school" fruit salad which incorporates watermelon, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and feta cheese. Are you salivating yet?
There are many recipes in this book which I will be trying out on my family. I would add that Williams makes no bones over the fact that these dishes can be made quickly and simply with ingredients available at Walmart -- no high-end, specialty shops required. What's not to love about that? Don't forget--these recipes are healthier alternatives to her family's past repertoire of recipes. I love that! While I am enjoying eating my way through this new tradition thanks to Randall and Williams, I will be thinking of ways to remake my own family's recipes.
I'd like to thank Blogging For Books for the review copy of Soul Food Love.
From the Publisher . . .
A mother-daughter duo reclaims and redefines soul food by mining the traditions of four generations of black women and creating 80 healthy recipes to help everyone live longer and stronger.
In May 2012, bestselling author Alice Randall penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Black Women and Fat,” chronicling her quest to be “the last fat black woman” in her family. She turned to her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, for help. Together they overhauled the way they cook and eat, translating recipes and traditions handed down by generations of black women into easy, affordable, and healthful—yet still indulgent—dishes, such as Peanut Chicken Stew, Red Bean and Brown Rice Creole Salad, Fiery Green Beans, and Sinless Sweet Potato Pie. Soul Food Love relates the authors’ fascinating family history (which mirrors that of much of black America in the twentieth century), explores the often fraught relationship African-American women have had with food, and forges a powerful new way forward that honors their cultural and culinary heritage. This is what the strong black kitchen looks like in the twenty-first century.
About the Author . . .
Alice Randall is the author of The Wind Done Gone, Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, Rebel Yell, and Ada's Rules. Born in Detroit she grew up in Washington, D.C.. As a Harvard undergraduate majoring in English she studied with Julia Child as well as Harry Levin, Alan Heimert, and Nathan Huggins. After graduation Randall headed south to Music City where she founded Midsummer Music with the idea she would create a new way to fund novel writing and a community of powerful storytellers. On her way to The Wind Done Gone she became the first black woman in history to write a number one country song; wrote a video of the year; worked on multiple Johnny Cash videos and wrote and produced the pilot for a primetime drama about ex-wives of country stars that aired on CBS. She has written with or published some of the greatest songwriters of the era including Steve Earle, Matraca Berg, Bobby Braddock, and Mark Sanders. Four novels later, the award winning songwriter with over twenty recorded songs to her credit and frequent contributor to Elle magazine, is Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. She teaches courses on Country Lyric in American Culture, Creative Writing, and Soul Food as text and in text. Randall lives near the University with her husband, a ninth generation Nashvillian who practices green law. Her daughter graduated from Harvard and is now teaching and writing in the Mississippi Delta. After twenty-four years hard at it Randall has come to the conclusion motherhood is the most creative calling of all and health disparity is the dominant civil rights issue of the first quarter of the 21st century.
Caroline Randall Williams--the third-generation poet and author (her great-grandfather is Arna Bontemps, and her mother is The Wind Done Gone author Alice Randall)--is following in her family’s footsteps with her writings (including kids’ book The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess) that promote African-American culture. Caroline, who is currently pursuing her MFA at the University of Mississippi, published Soul Food Love, a cookbook and African-American culinary anthology co-written with her mother. The book redefines traditional soul food cooking with a healthful spin.