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Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time Hardcover – August 15, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Miller moves way past common notions about soul food—that it is unhealthy and its origins are from the throwaways of slave masters, chitlins (hog intestines) being the best example. It turns out the origin of chitlins can be traced to Britain. That’s only one of several revelations Miller offers in this fascinating look at the cuisine known as soul food and its close cousin, southern cuisine. Drawing on memories from home (Denver by way of the South) and visits to some 150 restaurants in 35 cities as well as cookbooks and historical accounts, Miller explores the Native American, African, and European roots of soul food. Focusing on fried chicken, catfish, black-eyed peas, greens, and other elements of soul food, Miller explores their origins and significance in black culture, ending each chapter with recipes. From what he identifies as slave food to southern cooking to neo-soul, Miller examines the politics, culture, sociology, and economics of soul food. It evolved from something to be ashamed of as rural people moved north to the cities into an expression of race pride, more recently losing luster as tastes and health concerns changed. Photographs and recipes add to the allure of this well-researched look at the past and future of soul food. --Vanessa Bush

Review

[A] fascinating look at the cuisine known as soul food and its close cousin, southern cuisine. . . . Photographs and recipes add to the allure of this well-researched look at the past and future of soul food.--Booklist Starred Review



I recommend this book to 'foodies' and to those interested in American history, African American history and preserving good down home soul food cooking.--Tennessee Libraries



A wonderful combination of sociological examination of African-American culture and identity, travelogue and cookbook. . . . It's exactly this combination of earnest curiosity and an unwillingness to take his topic too seriously that makes Soul Food such a great read. . . . I highly recommend this book!--Nashville Scene



Insightful, thoughtful and meticulously researched, Soul Food sets a place for soul food in the American culinary canon. There's no way you won't be craving something sweet and fried and soulful for dinner.--Virginian-Pilot



Miller's book is a mouth-watering tome that not only titillates the palate, but feeds the brain with science, geography and history.--Denver Westword



Crafts a dynamic and engaging biography of an American cuisine.--Southern Historian



Miller knows all about soul food's allure, both as a way of eating and as cultural totem. . . . [His] book is a labor of love.--Denver Post



Deliciously entertaining and rich in its history.--Journal of American Culture



Most people don't know soul food the way Miller does. . . . Miller's book studies soul food mainly in terms of its quintessential ingredients or dishes. . . [and] along the way, he dishes up a few surprises.--Winston-Salem Journal



This highly-informative opus . . . is filled with fascinating factoids.--Kam Williams



Detailed and sprightly. . . . [Miller] adds in-depth chapters that explore more than a dozen soulful dishes--including catfish, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, cornbread and candied yams.--Stanford Magazine



2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award, Reference and Scholarship



Miller took up the challenge of tracing soul food's history and launching its spirited defense after realizing the story had never really been told in a comprehensive way.--Villager Newspaper



Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish--such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens and 'red drinks'--Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African-American culture and identity.--The Philadelphia Tribune



Just the book to move readers from one end of the line to the other without getting bogged down. . . . Soul Food is ingenious . . . [and] speaks to the enduring mythological power of its staple dishes.--Michael Twitty, American Prospect



An intelligent review that explores the muddy territory 'where southern food ends and soul food begins.' The journey is as informative as it is entertaining.--Austin Chronicle



As Miller tells the whole story of soul food from its beginnings to current day and throughout, he is so skillful at finding cultural and historical context, you may find yourself learning about your own food culture.--Culinary Historians of Washington



Both thought-provoking and celebratory.--Edible Piedmont



An engaging, tradition-rich look at an often overlooked American cuisine--certainly to be of interest to foodies from all walks of life.--Kirkus starred review



[A] comprehensive and entertaining history of soul food. . . . A lively and thorough account for fans of food literature and of African American history. Recipes included. Highly recommended.--Library Journal



[Miller] doesn't do anything halfway.--5280



Examines the roots of a distinctly American tradition.--StarNewsOnline.com



Miller moves way past common notions about soul food to offer a fascinating look at the cuisine and its close cousin, southern cooking.--Booklist Top 10 Food Books of 2013



[A] lively, innovative, and carefully researched study of traditional African American food habits.--North Carolina Historical Review



Miller makes many surprising points and teaches us a great deal about our Southern foodways' relationship to soul food. . . . Along the way, we get some fascinating insights, and a few great recipes and illustrations.--Okra Magazine



An undeniably entertaining book.--Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New edition edition (August 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 146960762X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1469607627
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ellen Sweets on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was fortunate to get an advance copy of this marvelous chronicle a few weeks before it sold out of its first printing -- and i see why readers would snatch it up.

A little more than a decade in the making, "soul food" is scholarly enough to qualify as an anthropological study, a textbook for anybody's culinary program anywhere, but readable enough for the person who just wants to learn more about this country's often controversial culinary heritage.

miller, a lawyer-turned-lobbyist-turned author, weaves an engaging narrative that traces the roots of southern foodways through iterations that reveal african slave roots that become translated into fine foods at the master's table. without giving anything away, most will be surprised at who first served macaroni and cheese, one of those "as american as apple pie" dishes gobbled coast-to-coast. and chitlins, sometimes laughably enunciated as "chitterlings," were stinking up european kitchens long before they were found in slave quarters. and you think black folks invented fried chicken? think again.

so the question becomes, why and how did soul food become the exclusive purview of american blacks? and what's the difference between "southern food," found on tables on poor white sharecropper tables, so-called "soul food" found on tables on tables belonging to black families? what happened between then and now that polarized, stigmatized and categorized certain foods (think fried chicken and watermelon)? Ever wonder where the notion of chicken and waffles came from?

All becomes clear in miller's enlightening soul food exploration -- one plate at a time. and yes, there are recipes -- and rather good ones at that. put your calorie counting on the back burner and enjoy.
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This book takes us down a tour of American history via a previously un-trammeled path and as a result provides fascinating insights far beyond its primary focus on American soul food. By thoroughly exploring the history and derivations of the cuisine that has come to be known today as soul food, the author takes us into the life and culture of American black slavery, the interactions between whites and blacks over that history, and some little-discussed aspects of what it means to be black in today's America. Yes, you'll get a great deal of information about the food, along with example recipes of each major type. But far more than that, you'll come away with a greatly increased understanding of American history and culture. Along the way, you'll learn some fascinating tidbits, such as why the color of your cornmeal matters (and why it is different in different parts of the country) and why red-colored drinks are a cliché in the African-American community. Highly recommended!
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I collect cookbooks and have a "passion" for cookbook that also deliver a message or have a story. This book does both, and does them well. I was impressed by the cover first of all because it catches the eye. I love to display my cookbooks on a bakers rack in my kitchen, so the dual purpose is perfect for me.

This book is well written; you will not regret purchasing.
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Format: Hardcover
Find a comfortable chair and have a stack of napkins nearby when you dig into this journey through the history of soul food with Adrian Miller - - you'll need the napkins to not only sop up some drool when reading recipes and food descriptions, but also to dry your tears as the painful history of these dishes hits home.

Adrian serves it all up on a cohesive plate of the more common soul food stars - - greens, red drinks, cornbread, hot fish, desserts and fried chicken are all featured and followed from their origins to their current status to their more ephemeral links to social class and caste in the U.S. The research has been deep and wide, and the prose ranges from pretty scholarly to humorous and down-home. The recipes included at the end of every chapter sounded really tasty and will be tested in this southern girl's kitchen in the near future.

In many places through "Soul Food", I found myself wondering if the research enraged the author - - what an infamous and sad slice of history slavery was and IS when you consider elements of the for-profit prison industry. So much of what occurred, and what led to the development and refinement of down-home and soul food cookery, was just plain horrifying and inhumane. But it was also abundantly clear that Adrian found love and humor in the history and the cook pot, and he did a masterful job of balancing all those flavors in this book. It reads like a story, but its foundation is solidly in fact and research.

One of the best books I've read in years!
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Defining "soul food" is a task that others have attempted; yet a precise definition remains elusive. Author and "soul foodie" Adrian Miller meticulously and lovingly researches the complex history and traditions of this uniquely American cuisine. Miller compares and contrasts soul food with southern and down home cooking. He does this through planning a hypothetical, traditional soul food meal and then dedicating an entire chapter to each of its components. With this method, Miller weaves African American culinary history from West Africa, the Atlantic slave trade, the antebellum era, post Civil War poverty across the South, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights era, to modern attempts to revive soul food. Other ethnic foods have found a niche in the American fast food and medium food markets (think Olive Garden, Applebees as "medium"). Yet soul food remains largely regulated to homes, church dinners, and small, local restaurants. Miller's last chapter is appropriately titled, "Whither Soul Food?" as he explores the future of soul food.
Yes, there are recipes at the conclusion of each chapter! This is an excellent history book with flavor. I recommend this for book clubs for adults and teens, as the meetings could include sharing of recipes from the book.
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