In the final portions of In Sorrow’s Kitchen, Harris describes the process through which traditionally African food culture merges into Southern food culture. Harris asserts that use of slaves in Southern kitchens allows these cultures to combine and create the “Southern” food culture that we understand today. Harris even references the presence of okra and other African vegetables in cookbooks as a way to “Point to the ubiquity of okra dishes on the developing Southern table” (106). Examining these cookbooks provides an interesting way to analyze the source of ingredients, but I was able to make a personal connection between these ingredients and a Southern lifestyle.

At a young age, my family moved to rural Georgia to live closer to my grandparents. One interesting trait about my grandparents is their continued devotion to growing their own vegetables and serving them at almost every meal. Ingredients that I now understand as foreign to the Americas naturally remind me of my lifestyle back at home. Two ingredients in particular, squash and okra, distinctly remind me of the Southern food culture. I think that this personal connection to the food (and a recipe for fried okra from my grandmother that I will vehemently defend as the best friend okra on the planet) provides stronger evidence for a Southern food culture than any primary source or Southern cookbook.

Although anecdotal, this personal connection to these ingredients allows for an interesting investigation into food history. Drawing from the Getting Started in Food History article, I should ask myself and my family “What events caused this cultural clash for my family?” From the top of my head, I know little about my family history or the ways that these foods became an important part of our lifestyle and food culture. Through themes discussed in this course about the importance of food and historical context, I’ll search for a way to explain this phenomenon. The discussions and questions that arise from analyzing the dinner table show the value of food to history and culture. In a way, I’m thankful that I was able to ask these questions about the past, and I look forward to creating more questions in the future.

1 Comment

  1. Morgan Quinones

    I think the idea of using your personal experiences is an interesting and unique starting point for creating and investigating a food history. You are able to ask questions about your family’s food history and then once you investigate that, you could speculate and generalize those findings to general Southern food culture if applicable. If you cannot generalize your findings, you could then take a deeper look into why your family’s food history in the South is different from all of Southern food history and what factors created a differentiation.

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