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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Africa and the American South

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our lesson this week was on Africa and the American South. The students entered the classroom to the sound of music traditionally sung by American slaves in the south.

I was happy to learn that many of the students in Mrs. Gunter's class at VA Heights had a great understanding of the history of African American slaves, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's peaceful work for civil rights.

Our lesson was based on the following excerpt written by Dr. Antonia DeMas:

African Americans first came to the United States as slaves. The slaves had “owners” who usually fed them the foods they did not want. But the African Americans were very imaginative with the foods given to them. This food was called Soul Food.

African Slaves brought okra, black-eyed peas, peanuts and sesame seeds with them to the United States on the slave ships. Okra is still very popular in the American South.

Most slave families were given a small plot of land on which to grow their own vegetables. Turnip and collard greens, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes were among their favorite foods to grow and eat. Black-eyed peas are high in protein, taste delicious, and are easy to dry and store for later use. Molasses is made from sugarcane. Sugarcane is one of the plants that sugar is made from. Molasses is made by boiling down the sugarcane and squeezing the liquid out. African Americans used molasses because it was a sugar by-product and not viewed as desirable as white sugar. Molasses is a good source of calcium, potassium and iron.

For a black slave family, living on a plantation and working in the fields all day, mealtime was something to look forward to at the end of the day, a time to share food, singing and socializing. Soul music is a heartfelt expression of feelings intertwined with the process and smells of cooking.

Soul Food and Soul Music evolved as a way to make you feel good all over and to speak to your very soul.

Many of the students LOVED the Soul Stew we made together! Quite a few eeven asked for seconds!

Soul Stew

1 TBS canola oil or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 cups pre-cooked or canned black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed)
2 cups corn (frozen, thawed)
2 cups collard greens, washed and chopped or frozen, thawed
1 cup okra (frozen, thawed)
2 TBS molasses
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Saute onion, garlic, and pepper in the oil.
Add the tomatoes. Simmer for one minute.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over medium heat about fifteen minutes.

Serve with Tobasco sauce, if desired.

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