Reclaiming True Grits

Why soul food is actually good for you.

Katrina Evacuees Spend Thanksgiving Away From Home

There are African Americans like the late chef and cookbook author Edna Lewis; food historian Jessica B. Harris; and the chef-owner of Farmer Brown Restaurant in San Francisco, Jay Foster, who acknowledge a more complex culinary heritage and understand the African American legacy of being “green.” It’s time, however, that we all reclaim real Soul Food by learning from elders; rediscovering heirloom varietals; planting home and community gardens; shopping at the farmer’s market; eating what’s in season; pickling, canning, and preserving for leaner months; getting back into the kitchen and cooking; and sharing meals with family and friends. While these actions may not solve all the health issues in our communities they will get the ball rolling.

Obviously, there are complex social, economic, demographic, and environmental factors that explain why diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure are so rife within African American communities. Yes, we can experience real change consisting of personal, family, community, and structural shifts by making our voices heard and pressuring our elected officials to create national, state, and local policies that ensure that all Americans have access to healthy affordable food. The task won’t be easy, but employing the same grit that carried our ancestors through the worst of times can pull us through anything.

Pan-Fried Grit Cakes with Caramelized Spring Onions, Garlic, and Thyme

Yield: Serves 4–6

Soundtrack: Green Onions by Booker T. & the MG’s

Mark my word, after making and eating this dish while listening to Green Onions, they both will be on heavy rotation for a few months, if not longer. I enjoy these tasty cakes as a savory dinner side or as a light meal with a green salad. You can omit the spring onions, cayenne, garlic, and thyme and eat these with pure maple syrup as a breakfast treat.

For a lower fat version, they can be baked on a lightly greased baking sheet at 325ºF until crisp, about 15 minutes each side. They can also be lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled for 10 minutes on each side.

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large bunch of spring onions, trimmed and sliced thinly