Last night I was reminded about the difference between Soul food and Comfort food. In many African-American households, they are one in the same, but in my childhood; they meant totally different things. Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s consisted of the usual “soul” dishes of collard greens, kidney gravy, macaroni and cheese, fried or smothered pork chops, dinner rolls, etc. The dinners at my home, however, were nourishing but never traditional.
In one of my first entries, I mentioned my mom is a woman of variety. Every time I go home to visit, a new bedspread, plant, furniture piece, or body wash greets me in the house. She and my dad are always doing something new to my childhood abode. This desire for change definitely was clearly evident in our meal choices.
I remember always having the newest Lunchables to hit the market as soon as our local grocery stores got them in stock. Newest pudding or Jell-O cups, we had them. Capri Sun out with a new flavor, got that too. Whether we wanted it or not, variety was our spice of life. Dinner time was no different. My mom’s sister became our primary cook since my mom worked full-time and frankly wasn’t a fan of cooking. My aunt would try every new recipe located on the back of the Minute Rice box. My parents would buy every single new flavor of Hamburger/Tuna/Chicken Helper that hit the shelves. Some were keepers, some I wish we could have just had pizza that night. A lot of times we would just have take-out, before I started my love of cooking. I never could settle into a dish. There was always something different to try.
I often wonder what it would have been like to grow up in a home with traditional “black” dishes. I wonder if I would actually like the taste of sweet potatoes now, or would I still hate them with abandon. Would I like baked mac and cheese instead of preferring *whispers* Velveeta Shells and Cheese? I’m not sure, so back to last night:
My guy came over and brought me a plate of baked chicken, green beans, and fried potatoes. As soon as I took my first bite, I was reminded of my Bigmama’s cooking. It took me back to those Sunday dinners filled with family and laughter. He was apprehensive on the seasoning, but I assured him it was great. I was admittedly envious of the lack of effort he used as he explained what went into each thing. The seasoning, see that’s the difference with Soulfood….the seasoning. It’s something to it that I haven’t been able to fully master, due to not being completely immersed into that type of cooking as a kid.
I definitely can hold my own in the kitchen, but some things just come to me harder. I will spend hours trying to find the perfect crunch for my fried chicken, trying different techniques and milks. I would rather make anything else than attempt cornbread for family dinners at my grandma’s. My mom’s kitchen was definitely a fun place of new, international flavors, but I wonder if I’m missing the base. I can make wonderful Filipino lumpias or homemade fettuccini noodles with care, yet my scratch mac and cheese still comes out…funky. I am grateful for the comfort of new, but am I missing the familiarity of soul?