Cell Phone Data Ruling, What Leads Young Adults To Happiness, Soul Food Week

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Neil Conway (CC BY 2.0)

Over the course of eight years, two UW professors studied the overall happiness of a group of university students as they went through college, graduated, and begin to navigate the world balancing relationships, full time jobs and paying off student lands. We hear from one of the lead researchers about what they learned. We also hear about the history of different classic soul foods in America in honor of soul food month. Plus, a look at today’s Supreme Court ruling on the privacy of cell phone location data.

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  • Culinary Historian Aims To Reframe Perception Of Soul Food

    June is National Soul Food Month, celebrating the cuisine that combines the food traditions of West Africa, Western Europe and the Americas.

    Adrian Miller, author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time” and a culinary historian, wants to reframe the way people think about soul food.

    “If you think about any immigrant cuisine in this country, we usually think about the celebration food of the old country,” he said. “Soul food, in many respects, is a hybrid between everyday foods and the celebration food.”

    What sets soul food apart is that it really gained currency outside of the South, Miller said. And when it moved away from the South, it coincided with technological advancement in food. Celebration foods that might have been eaten once or twice a year, became weekly highlights.

    One good example is fried chicken.

    “Chickens were usually fried just in the spring, but with the agricultural system making chickens more widely available and cheap, fried chicken is something you could have any time of the week, but typically on a Sunday dinner,” he said.

    One important staple of soul food cuisine — macaroni and cheese — often gets attributed to a different immigrant group.

    “Mac and cheese was very popular in the United States before Italian immigrants arrived in large numbers,” he said. “And it was extremely popular in the South. They actually called it macaroni pudding.”

    In the South, enslaved cooks were often charged with making the dish, Miller said. After emancipation, the dish was embraced by African-Americans and by the 1960s, they believed they had invented it, he said.

    In Miller’s book, the macaroni and cheese recipe from chef Nyesha Arrington forgoes the traditional cheddar cheese for softer cheeses that melt into the dish.

    “Mac and cheese has kind of a DIY vibe,” he said. “As long as you can hold firm to the kind of the framework, there’s a lot of ways to play with mac and cheese.”

    As for a beverage to go with the meal, it must be red, Miller said.

    “You have to understand that in soul food culture, red is a color and a flavor,” he said. “So we don’t get caught up in strawberry, cherry or tropical punch, it’s just red.”

    Two red drinks that took root in the Americans came from West Africa during the slave trade era, Miller said. Cola nuts — which are reddish in color — were put in water and sweetened to taste for a drink reserved for hospitality occasions. And hibiscus, a plant native to West Africa, was used to make tea.

    “I think that sets the template for red drink because if you look through newspaper accounts of any social gatherings from emancipation to the present, typically a red drink is present when a large number of African-Americans get together,” he said.

    Miller’s recipe for Hibiscus Aid brings together hibiscus flowers, ginger and a sweetener for a simple and refreshing summer drink.

    While soul food is popping up more and more in many high-end, trendy restaurants, it has a long history of being followed by negative perceptions and racist stereotypes.

    “Soul food gets hit from two sides,” he said. “So from the African-American side it is believed that soul food is the food of the oppressor, the leftovers or the unwanted food … that black people are eating and literally digesting white superiority by loving this food.”

    The other take is that it is viewed as low-class food by white society, Miller said.

    “You see a lot of painful stereotypes emerge in the late 1800s using food that even whites ate themselves to really demean the existence and humanity of African-Americans — typically fried chicken and watermelon are chief among these painful stereotypes,” he said.

    Miller sees this as an opportunity to embrace the cuisine, and to understand the history behind it.

    “These are things that are wonderful to eat and should be celebrated,” he said. “Acknowledge the pain that has come from the past, but reclaim it.”

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Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Dean Knetter Producer
  • Breann Schossow Producer
  • Blake Reid Guest
  • Soyeon Shim Guest
  • Adrian Miller Guest
  • Michele Gerard Good Technical Director

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