Ultimate Guide to Southern Food

Difference Between Soul Food and Southern Food

Trying to differentiate soul food from Southe­rn food is a bit complicated. While not all Southern food is considered soul food, all soul food is definitely Southern. Topping the list of soul food and Southern food are fried chicken, barbeque ribs, macaroni and cheese, chitterlings (hog intestines, also known as chitlins), pickled pigs feet, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, sweet potato pie, hushpuppies and cornbread, (also known as johnnycake) [source: San Jose State University].

Some people describe soul food as basic, down-home cooking that originated in the rural South and has been passed down through generations. Others define it as being directly derived from West African cooking, by way of the triangular slave trade. Enslaved people had to make do with what they had, which often consisted of weekly rations and the leftover, less-than-desirable animal parts that were cast off by their masters. For example, dishes were whipped up using pigs' feet, ham hocks, chitterlings, pig ears, hog jowl, tripe and crackling. Nothing was wasted. To make the meat more palatable, cooks would either fry the meat in fat or boil it over a long period of time, adding a lot of seasoning and fat for flavor.


Still others consider soul food to include parts that are "lower on the hog" than those used in Southern food. Some say that soul food is spicier, but it depends on the dish as well as the cook [source: Chowhound].

Soul food got its moniker in the 1960s, as part of the Civil Rights era's Black Pride movement. Soul food took on a particular meaning to many African Americans because it evoked a painful history of enslavement and prejudice but also celebrated the ingenuity, perseverance and pride involved in overcoming adversity [source: Latshaw].

To learn more about the history of Southern food, read on.