Soul Food


Cheerful ticket takers

Today was the USC-L Black History Month Soul Food Cook-Off.DSC00866

I was born and raised white. For those who know me this isn’t a surprise. I’m of German and English stock and while Mom was a great cook, the kind and variety of food she served was less than, shall I say, ‘colorful’?

White potatoes, either mashed or baked, were staples on our dinner plates. One of my favorite Sunday dinners was Mom’s noodles with beef tips . . . cream-hued egg noodles served over white mashed potatoes. We ate our share of pork, ‘the other white meat,’ often with sauerkraut . . . which of course is white. And I don’t remember much in Mom’s spice rack other than salt, pepper, sage, cloves and . . . ? So a chance to sample authentic soul food? Of course I went!

The Cook-Off is in its 3rd or 4th year and this year raised money for the Emergency Textbook Fund for the students at USC-L. The word was you had to get there early or you might not get any food. I arrived at 11:29 for the 11:30 opening and it was already standing room only.

The competition was between six groups – Comporium, Founders Federal, An Expression of Taste, Leroy Springs Catering, USC-L Diabetes Education Center and USC-L Student Affairs. Each had their own soul food menu and decorated their area to fit the theme. Eaters visited each station however, whenever, and as often as they wished.

USC-L's Dr. Ron Cox

USC-L’s Dr. Ron Cox

First on my plate was a strip of smoked hog jowls. It was mighty tasty. Think of a thick, crispy slice of bacon. Also on this first plate – yes first, there were three – was a BBQ pork rib, creamy macaroni and cheese, corn bread and deep green collards. A waiter with a sampling of sweet potato pone also made a stop at our table about this time.

The second plate DSC00862held the fried dill pickle-still a bright green under the tan batter, BBQ shrimp, flank steak, red beans and rice, and peach cobbler. And finally the third plate held something a bit healthier in a salmon patty, but the rest of the plate was filled with shrimp and grits swimming in herbed butter, spicy hoppin’ john, a short rib, and more collards. Oh! And a delicious cold peach soup. DSC00864




Somewhere on these plates I also tasted two kinds of pulled pork – one with a tangy vinegar-based sauce, the other with a peppery white sauce – banana pudding, slaw, baked beans, red-skinned potato salad, another version of mac and cheese, a hush puppy, and a deviled egg.

Mix all those tastes, textures and aromas together, add a helping of soul and hip-hop music in the background that had people up and dancing and what a lunch we had! I usually tend toward a vegetarian diet but today was, as my dad says, ‘a special day’ and as a writer I’m always on the look-out for new experiences. Today’s Black History Month Soul Food Cook-Off was a treat in many ways.

But I still passed on the pigs’ feet.

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4 Responses to Soul Food

  1. Claire says:

    OMGracious – three plates – three ‘delectable’ plates – how fun!! So glad you attended, and so glad that you shared your day, and your plates with us. You made me think of my parents, Irish and German, and we had the same type of colorless food, although corned beef each St. Patrick’s Day had a bit of color to it – if it wasn’t boiled to death along with the white potatoes and white cabbage. So I can relate! Thank God for my Italian mother-in-law who brought not only wonderful colors, flavors, smells, and tastes into my life, but her wonderful son as well. She would have enjoyed this cook out as well! You would have loved her as much as I did!

    • Hi Claire, yes, I think I would have loved your mom-in-law. After all, she taught you how to make that wonderful salad! There is something wonderful about the aroma of onion, garlic, peppers and olive oil simmering in a pot. Isn’t it fun to step out of our own ethnic kitchens and sample the food from another one?

      • Claire says:

        Even more wonderful is the look of satisfaction in the eyes of the person whose food you’ve sampled and enjoyed, and let them know with an ‘Ahhhh’ at the scent, or close of our eyes and an ‘Hmmmmm’ after a taste. The sparkle in the cook’s eyes are priceless!! My M-I-L would smile and reply, “Manja, Manja” ( spelling?) and LOVE just poured from her!

      • Absolutely! One of the women at my table said you can taste in the food the chef’s love of cooking.

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