Hello My Beauuuutiful Peeps
I came to London in 1978 with an American touring theatre company, which opened in The West End with a Gospel musical.
The show didn’t last long, but I knew London was the place for me. I had always felt something of a misfit before, but in London, I discovered that I could express myself in ways that I wasn’t able to back home in The States.
Both of my daughters were born in the UK, and when they were teenagers, I started fostering other teenagers who needed a loving a secure home. Since 1991 I have fostered over 60 children and teenagers, and at one time I had 6 teenage girls ranging from ages 11 – 17 living in a four-bedroom flat at the same time. As you can imagine, cooking big family meals is a way of life for me.
Soul food comes from within. It is a style of cooking that developed in the American Deep South when black people were enslaved, before the
Civil War and the beginnings of emancipation. Expected to survive on leftover scraps of food, they just got on with cooking up some of the tastiest meals imaginable, in giant seasoned cast iron pots.
Traditionally slave rations consisted of corn, bacon or salt pork, molasses, flour, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. With these few items, they managed to create a surprising variety of wholesome dishes. They learned how to use everything- nothing was wasted or taken for granted. If the master and his family ate a leg of pork, the slaves enjoyed the leftover bits, such as succulent pig’s feet, the ears, tail, head, and the delicious intestines, commonly known as chitterlings. Stale bread was turned into stuffings or puddings. Damaged or overripe fruit was used in drinks or desserts, and leftover vegetables made into croquettes or hush puppies.
This is the food that I was brought upon. I have many fond memories of family gatherings at my Aunt Delia’s house. The table would be overflowing with fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fried fish, potato salad, cornbread, ribs, green bean salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, and love. Us children would stand impatiently aside whilst our elders filled their plates first, praying that my Great Uncle Bernard and Earl Gray wouldn’t eat all the ribs before we could get to the table. When I moved to London, I had a hard time finding a lot of the ingredients that I was used to, partly because the names were different, courgette instead of zucchini, and partly because they just didn’t stock them. At first, I struggled. But then I remembered the roots of Soul Food, using what you have, and infusing it with love.