How Soul Food is at the Heart of Our Culture
I spent the past weekend in Georgia, Macon to be exact. It was my first real experience being down in the South (besides being stuck in the Atlanta airport for 3 hours) and one I will honestly never forget. Of course the high 80 degree weather kept me smiling the whole weekend, although it couldn’t last. But what really struck me about this particular vacation weekend was the soul food.
Traveling with my dad always means an itinerary structured around meals and perfectly timed snacks, so I was anticipating a delicious getaway as usual. In California we load up on fresh veggies and fruits with grilled meats. In Puerto Rico we ate sizzling fajitas almost daily. And in Georgia, we devoured that soul food.
We spent the day in Atlanta after arriving at the airport and decided to go to Gladys Knight’s chicken and waffles for a late lunch. I will admit, I have never been to a chicken and waffles restaurant, but I was beaming with excitement once we stepped inside. It was an experience worth writing about.
Tables were filled with families or small groups of friends. Some groups just returned from a graduation so they had on their dress clothes while others simply wore fashionable outfits. My point is that this was a place for gathering just like the Sunday dinner table. As I waited for my food, I watched the people around me, studying them as the sort of ethnographer I like to be when I travel. Everyone was happy. But not just because the yams were sweetened to perfection or because the chicken had the most perfect crusting. It was because they were together.
With the subtle R&B soul music playing in the restaurant that mirrored just how delicious the food was when it hit your tongue, and the lights dimmed just right, I felt I had an outsider’s glimpse at what makes our culture so beautiful.
People like to joke about how blacks love fried chicken and what not, but fact of the matter is, I do! Who doesn’t? Every culture has different music, language, symbols and food that sets them apart from other cultures. And as I sat in Gladys Knight’s restaurant, I felt proud of my black culture. People make jokes about the foods we eat, but on that day I saw how we as a culture come together over meals and appreciate life. It seems impossible to me for an outsider to not smile at the way we as a culture join together, whether family or friends, and forget our problems even if just for an hour, over a delicious meal. It was a beautiful sight that was just another reminder of the pride I should feel to be black.