"I think soul food is unfairly judged because people are looking at it through a very narrow lens," says the author of the upcoming cookbook Carla Hall's Soul Food.
Carla Hall’s upcoming cookbook serves as a lesson on soul food.
“I think soul food is unfairly judged because people are looking at it through a very narrow lens. The reason I wanted to write this book was to educate people that there is a difference between everyday soul food and celebration foods,” Hall says of the book, which is due out October 23. “And to get people to really stop thinking about just the celebration soul foods like mac and cheese, and greens, and fried chicken.”
The Nashville native acknowledged that while these foods are so often associated with the black community, historically “nobody ate like that every day,” she says. “I mean maybe they ate like that four times a year.”
“Those are the ones that are known the most because you’re generally finding out about them by being invited to some celebration,” she adds. “But you can get to know a culture by actually tasting these other dishes, like some of the lighter dishes—the dishes that you may have during the week.”
After a road trip through the South this summer, Hall filled her book, which she promises is “very approachable,” with roughly 65 percent plant-based recipes that still highlight the West African culture, like black-eyed pea hummus and a broth-based okra stew.
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But the chef also couldn’t ignore the classics. Instead of lightening up her biscuits and fried chicken recipes, Hall rather encourages people to eat them only during appropriate times.
“I really wanted to leave them because I think that if you are having a celebration, then you really need a good mac and cheese,” she says. “Why mess with a good dish?”