Home Social Construct “Food Is Not Just Food In The Black Community”

“Food Is Not Just Food In The Black Community”

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I received a comment this morning that ties an awful lot into an essay I’m currently writing and, as I found her comment to be pretty indicative of something I keep seeing when I see people talk about food, I wanted to know what the family here thinks.

On the “Working Out Is For White People” post, ThatDeborahGirl wrote:

I don’t agree with the statement that “Food, is just food.”

Food speaks to nationalities, cultural roots and family traditions as much as anything in the world society. So to change our eating habits is truly to change our lives and step onto new ground. It is a radical thing for some people. Definitely for me.

I consider myself to be a very picky eater. For all that I am overweight because most of the foods I like are salty, sweet, fat laden. And although I’ve made great strides over the years, I still have a long way to go. I never equated my issues with food as a part of a cultural issue. But there’s a ring of truth to this that I can’t quite deny. That as a light-skinned black woman it’s not easy to reject who I’m “supposed” to be and embrace “who I can be” when that means another level of rejection by my black sistas.

Because we are hard on each other. We really are. And then again, I can’t imagine not going to a funeral and afterwards not having fried chicken, green beans and macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, with baked chicken set aside for those who are trying to eat “healthy” and this is seen as an improvement.

And don’t get me started on baby showers where we really show our baking hand. And Thanksgiving and Christmas where I can still be found to this day cleaning chitlins and making spareribs and boiling greens and baking beans to get the flavor in but taking most of the nutrional value out.

How to change this when even something as simple, in my house, as vegetarian lasange or even taco salad are met, by my mother, with derision. And so I go back to cooking what she likes and what feels good because it’s home. And I if I sneak in a spinach salad at work or rack my brain to try to think of healthier ways to cook the foods we like – the idea that I’m trying not to reject decades of family history- my black history – is only surprising to me in that I never thought of it before.

Because I do speak proper English. And again I am light-skinned. And so many brown skinned black women all my life have gone out of their way to show me that, as a light-skinned black woman, I’m not as black as they are – literally and figuratively. I understand it, even if I don’t like it – it is what it is. But if one of the few ties that bind I have is food…how can I bear to loosen yet another line to those I love?

Do I understand what she’s saying? Yes. That’s not where (or why, for that matter) I’m hitting a brick wall.

“Shades of Blackness” by Laurie Cooper. Click to view enlarged portrait and purchasing options.

I think I’m much more interested in what this means for us as a community. Specifically this:

Because I do speak proper English. And again I am light-skinned. And so many brown skinned black women all my life have gone out of their way to show me that, as a light-skinned black woman, I’m not as black as they are – literally and figuratively. I understand it, even if I don’t like it – it is what it is. But if one of the few ties that bind I have is food…how can I bear to loosen yet another line to those I love?

Can I get some thoughts on this, here?

You may also like


Cass March 4, 2011 - 12:19 PM

I don’t get it. I understand and agree with the statement that food isn’t just food, that food is tied to culture. But, I don’t see where skin tone comes into play. Does the commenter mean that in order to “belong,” she has to eat “black” food? I know our issues of skin color run deep, but I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve heard of any correlation between skin color and food. I’m not even gonna touch the “proper English” comment. I’m curious to see what others say.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 4, 2011 - 12:28 PM

So am I. I think there’s a lot going on there… but I’d rather open it up to y’all before I go there.

Naya August 14, 2013 - 2:39 PM

Beautiful piece. You make a really interesting point about skin tone, identity, and food. As a Black/Mexican woman, I understood your point. For complex reasons I may over-identify with collards (veggie-style please!) and cornbread because I want to affirm my blackness. As if having that plate of fried okra and mac and cheese screams, “See, I’m Black enough!”

I wonder how many of us Black-identified folk are striving to be “black enough” – more than we sometimes discuss. Whether we are considered light or darker skinned.

Your story invites us to ask how much the food we eat is connected with our identities.

Webbgurl2000 August 7, 2011 - 9:25 AM

I understand. She is saying that she feels ostracized because she is fairskinned as a black woman by many other black women. She wants to feel like a part of “her People.” However, she gets constant reminders of her lack of pigment. So, how is she supposed to do all she can to “act black.”

God forbid she eat grilled chicken or skinless fried chicken or her spinach salad in peace!!! I get it. I have heard it before or got totally ignored when I lost weight because I have a body type that is curvy, but curvy women must watch their weight because an hourglass can turn to a circle really quickly…

So, she doesn’t feel she can eat the way she needs to for heatlh sake because the other sistas might say, ‘see, see..we knew you wuz like whitey all along!!!’

Yvonne August 26, 2013 - 6:33 PM

I understand completely what that sistah is talking about, all my life I’ve been called snowflake, white girl the list goes on and on because I didn talk like the other sistah around the way. lol here’s the kicker just because I cook healthy meals for my family no other black people including family won’t come to my house and eat # just foolishness

Ericka March 4, 2011 - 12:53 PM

I’ve never commented before so first let me say that I LOVE YOUR SITE, & views & love the drive & knowledge that you have & share..

My opinion & I hope it isn’t considered harsh but I think it is AN EXCUSE, your “family & friends” if they LOVE you they want you to be healthy & to do & be the best YOU that you CAN BE… who gives a bleep if they don’t understand & can’t appreciate if you are SERIOUSLY trying to do what’s best for you..

Family or not family / friends….. you have to do whats best for you.

Best wishes…


KiWi2011 March 4, 2011 - 1:25 PM

I must say that I think what the poster isn’t realizing is that one has nothing to do with the other. Being black can’t be taken away because others don’t think your black enough by the music you listen to, the food you eat, the clothes you wear or the proper use of the english language. It is something you are. They can’t take away womanhood anymore than they can take away your blackness.

As a black woman I whole-heartedly reject the notion that being black means having to cook unhealthy food that is killing me and my family. Being black should not require being unhealthy and overweight. Sure we’re curvy but the last time a checked curves did not equal lumps and bumps and cellulite.

Black culture is as diverse as we allow it to be. Saying that it can’t include greens that have nutritional value, chicken that isn’t fried, baked goods that aren’t loaded with butter and sugar. Everyone’s family is different but for me and mine, our food will be filled with nutrients to sustain us and keep us alive and well.

jennifer March 4, 2011 - 1:47 PM

Food is definitely a cultural issue and it doesn’t just effect black folk! Most cultures have some form of “comfort food”. I’m not sure where she was going with the “I’m light skinned and I speak proper English” comment so I’ll leave that alone. What bothers me is that her mother doesn’t like when she makes her healthy dishes. I understand that she lives in her mother’s home and she has to respect her, but she has the right to eat foods that will help her to live a healthy life.

KiWi2011 March 4, 2011 - 2:02 PM

I think she was saying that because she speaks proper english and is light skinned darker women have always told her she isn’t black.

Daphne March 4, 2011 - 1:51 PM

What I gleaned from the OP’s comment:

Because food is tied into culture, and the original poster is a light-skinned black woman who presumably had to prove her “blackness” due to her skin tone, rejecting certain types of food might be perceived as rejecting her blackness (since others may not see her as authentically black anyway).

So it is a lot going on, I get it, and these nuances should be acknowledged. That said, at some point, you have to press on anyway, and consider if these people with whom you want to develop/maintain a connection are worth potentially sacrificing your health and well-being. No one can live your life for you.

It may not be easy, but it really is that simple, in my view.

Regarding the community aspect – well……community requires mutual effort by most, if not all, interested parties. If I’m the only one attempting to maintain that connection, it ain’t a community. The black community is such a vague term anyway that it bears no meaning for me.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 4, 2011 - 2:03 PM

“Regarding the community aspect – well……community requires mutual effort by most, if not all, interested parties. If I’m the only one attempting to maintain that connection, it ain’t a community. The black community is such a vague term anyway that it bears no meaning for me.”

Now THERE is a point. “Black Community” and “Blackness” are two terms that are so vague, in a sense, that scrambling for a definition (or a community) has left us clinging to harmful ideologies in the name of “Black.” Maybe we need to stop looking for what Black “looks like” and just accept the fact that, if you claim Black on your census form (that’s a U.S. thing), Black looks like YOU.

Nicole June 2, 2013 - 10:34 AM

That is a great point Daphne. I nhave always felt that way. I do think that I know where she is coming from. I think she feels that perhaps continuing to eat the fried chicken and such is one way to keep her “Black Connection” ; that this is an area in her life that she can actually can tweak or has some semblance of control over. I can’t say that I agree, but I do understand. There are people who really do equate things like eating better with trying to be white or better than another so perhaps in her mind, she just feels it’s easier to not alienate those around her. I know that food has a lot of cultural significance. This is why it is sooooo important to foster a voice in our children so that they can become people who are not afraid to stand in their truth. No one should feel bad or be made to feel bad because they don’t want the lifestyle another chooses especially when it comes to making healthier choices for themselves. It’s ridiculous. I am thankful that I have always felt comfortable in my own skin so to speak. I won’t even begin to speak on some of the attitudes and theories that float through our communities. These mindsets are really dangerous

DaniBel March 4, 2011 - 1:55 PM

I’m new to this site and this is my first comment. I’m not sure I can say all I want to say without letting my frustration show. I’ll start with the fact that I understand food as a cultural identifier. I’m from New Orleans and I’m proud of it. We have the best food in the world. It transcends White, Black, and everything else because it’s an amalgamation of cultures, cuisines and experiences. But I’m not going to eat shrimp po-boys every day to maintain my cultural identity. I’m from New Orleans. Period. I’m Black. Period. I eat salads instead of jambalaya. I grill my fish instead of frying it.

If you’re using food to relate to and be popular with people who, from what I’m reading, sound like they don’t have any appreciation for you in the first place, you’re fighting a losing battle. They’ve already damaged self-esteem and self-image. Maintaining unhealthy habits to continue to hang on the fringes with them is futile and frankly, an excuse to keep doing what you’ve always done and not put forth any effort. You’re taking care of them and not yourself and they don’t appreciate it. If you took care of yourself for a change, you should find more of the acceptance and praise you need coming from your own self-worth and not some very infuriating idea of what it means to be Black.

T. March 4, 2011 - 1:59 PM

My thoughts:
1- being light skinned is the likely result of forced miscegenation with our African ancestors – part and parcel of the Black Experience
2 – speaking English well is likely a result of the strides our forbears made to make sure we could have a quality education (the fight for educational opportunities is part and parcel of the Black Experience too)
3 – Eating well is a way of taking care of yourself – and taking care of yourself does not make you less Black or less of anything else.

It can’t be that food is one of the few “ties that bind” anyone to their culture – including this woman’s. I agree with a previous commenter – there appears to be a bit of excuse making going on here. Why is her family required to approve of her steps towards better health? It would be great if they were supportive but her journey towards better health is only hers – going for the life you want sometimes requires going out on your own to get it. There are so many websites (like this one) and communities out there that can provide moral support if she really needs it. Why can’t she cook her vegetarian lasagna and prepare her spinach salad while preparing traditional lasagna and potato salad for her mother?

I would recommend that this woman seriously take stock of all the things that connect her to her culture – sit down and make a list of everything if she needs to – and really consider how all these things connect her to her culture. That might give her the motivation to make the changes she needs to make in her eating, while understanding she is not diminishing her “blackness” while doing so.

Felicia Akhianyo March 4, 2011 - 2:03 PM

I too, agree that culturally, food– how it’s cooked, when and where it’s eaten, etc., is a huge thing. But, I think that’s true for all cultures, as it is an identifier of origins, history, social mores and values in any community. I agree too, that it can be hard to break through the barriers that we find in our communities, even amid our family members, to moving beyond unhealthy habits and engaging in changing the way we view food and its impact on our daily lives.

The commenter made me think back to Ericka’s comments the other day about the whole “crab in a barrel” syndrome. I think that principle is, many times, even more magnified in our family members! This makes it hard, but not impossible to carry out the changes that will keep us coming back to future family reunions, Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases.

What helped me is that I found a remnant among my family members who desired the same healthy changes as I did and we ran with it! There are only seven of us, but as of this date, we’ve lost a combined 65lbs since January 1, 2011! We have deemed this our ” Family Weight Loss Challenge” and we are excited by the competitive element (We are all chipping in a set amount each month for seven months and the person with the highest percentage of weight lost wins) and by the changes in our overall health and well-being. We are also there to support each other at family gatherings when opting for healthier alternatives to the “soul food” we grew up on.

As for the comments made about the issue of skin color, I think I see the correlation she’s making because I was raised in Louisiana and grew up in a community and culture there which valued skin color as having a direct correlation with beauty, worth and even intelligence.

I connected it this way: If you look a certain way (light skinned with good hair), you are a part of a certain group and are expected to behave yourself accordingly in order to truly interact with that group. Likewise, if you are a part of a family/racial group you are expected to expected to eat a certain way in order to truly interact with us. All black people must eat “soul food and love watermelon and fried chicken” I get it…

As a race, black people have even perpetuated this phenomenon for years. I mean, look back at the beginnings of sororities like AKA and DST. When I was in college there was still an unwritten code that said that if you were darker than a paper bag you weren’t AKA’s ideal. Dark girls were Deltas! They’ll deny it, probably today, but I lived it.

Likewise, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had black people question whether I am really black, not because of my skin color, but because I passed on the fried chicken and collard greens swimming in pork grease!

I think forums like this, where we are unafraid to challenge these attitudes in our community and families are important and extremely helpful and I thank you for the opportunity to put in my two cents worth!

Maggie B March 4, 2011 - 2:10 PM

A comment is just that a comment. Its a capture of thought. Sometimes it is difficult to fully express oneself in a few paragraphs. Written words can be more difficult than spoken words. ( Trust me – I have rewritten, disgarded and bashed many emails). I believe there is more to the OC’s story.

While I am not a light-skinned black women, I do emphatize with her and the idea that our relationship with food and what we associate with food runs deep – especially when so much of your life (and perhaps identity as in the OC’s experience) has been dictated by living a certain (unhealthy) way. It’s the tie that bonds. The thought of breaking that psyche runs deep. It requires stripping yourself to the core and yes letting go of some people and traditions. The thought of that may leave you vunerable especially when that is all you have known for most of your life. You may wonder who will be with you on the other side of the journey. Hell, you may wonder who you’ll be on the other side of the journey.

I am a Haitian American. When I think of the number of starches, fried foods and limited vegetables that are part our meals, it make me dizzy. I am trying to be the change I want to see with healthier options, new and healthier ways of preparing old favorites and an active life. It still doesn’t prevent my mom and aunts from thinking I am rejecting them and not embracing who we are as Haitians.

Yes, I know its about their (my family’s) limitations and not mine……. but that team BGG2WL hurts deep. Especially when there are days when I am unsure myself.

Margaret March 7, 2011 - 11:43 AM

These are my thoughts as well. I think she’s coming from a personal place of experiencing rejection from “her own” people. I can understand that, I’ve been there even though I’m dark skinned.

So to “reject” the food that so many of us love, is to reject them or another form of you think you are better than me. To this day going to my mother’s house will result in me bringing home some dish that more than likely is cooked “old school.” To say no is like a personal rejection to my mother.

I think where the OC is coming from, doesn’t really have to do with her color or speaking properly. It’s her frame of reference. It has to do with the rejection that she faced and the fear of rejecting her blackness because of how others may react.

Nicole June 2, 2013 - 10:43 AM

“The thought of breaking that psyche runs deep. It requires stripping yourself to the core and yes letting go of some people and traditions. The thought of that may leave you vulnerable especially when that is all you have known for most of your life. You may wonder who will be with you on the other side of the journey. Hell, you may wonder who you’ll be on the other side of the journey.”

YESSSSSSS!!!! That can be quite scary for many people. It hurts me that I am not now and probably will never be close with my famil but I feel that family is as family does so I refuse to get caught up in titles that are not befit for some people. Everyone can’t do that however, and I get it. It could be an excuse or it could be a real struggle for her to fit in/not offend. I wish her peace of mind.

Eva March 4, 2011 - 2:11 PM

I don’t really get what she’s saying. I’m light skinned as well and I don’t feel the need to be “blacker” than a brown skinned woman. To me it sounds like an excuse to not eat healthy. I mean if you look at it, the reason why black people eat unhealthy stuff is because when our ancestors were slaves we had to eat the scraps, the stuff the white people didn’t want. I went to Senegal nearly 30 years ago and I didn’t see overweight people there, most of the people I met were vegetarians.

Deb March 4, 2011 - 2:36 PM

Just have to say that I love this blog. This is also my first time commenting. When my family gets together for holidays or special gatherings, it’s expected that certain foods will be served. The macaroni and cheese, potato salad, ribs, pies and cakes – those are tastes of home. We look forward to them and enjoy them, but they’re not what we eat everyday.

My grandmother who died at 100 years and 6 months was active for most of her life and ate fresh vegetables from her garden. My mom (79 years young) regularly exercises and eats balanced meals because she wants to continue to be healthy and active. I try very hard (and I’ll admit don’t always succeed) to follow their example.

Based on what I’ve seen in my own family, I don’t see how making healthy food and lifestyle choices has anything to do with being accepted as “black enough.” No one should have to do self-destructive things in order to be acceptable to someone else. Once we start trying to define ourselves (or others) by one narrow set of criteria, we run into a whole lot of trouble.

Erika thanks for sharing this post. It has certainly opened the door for an interesting discussion!

Webbgurl2000 August 7, 2011 - 9:30 AM

No one should have to do self-destructive things in order to be acceptable to someone else. Once we start trying to define ourselves (or others) by one narrow set of criteria, we run into a whole lot of trouble.

Excerpted from “Food Is Not Just Food In The Black Community” | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Thanks Eva. I truly liked this. This actually sums up most of what we face here. If you are truly proud of your blackness. you will eat what we are supposed to eat if it kills you.

Chintel March 4, 2011 - 2:50 PM

It sounds like to me there is some self-worth and self-esteem issues here. I am a brown skinned woman and was raised to love myself no matter what people said. My mother is a yellow bone w/green eyes. She has told me of all the horror stories about being treated bad by the brown skinned girls because she was light w/ green eyes.

That being said she has never ever told me any stories about them not excepting her because she didnt eat “soul food”. I know that the way “black” people cook is connected to our roots but the older i get i realize maybe its not so much a “black” thing but a southern thing. Not saying people up north dont cook soul food but a lot of what “soul food” is, is southern down home cooking. Look at Paula Dean. She is a white woman but if uve seen any of her shows she uses all the same southern recipes Black folks do.

Anyway…your blackness is not defined by the tone of your skin or the food you eat or how you speak, its defined by YOU. You have to have that self esteem and self worth to do whats good and healthy for you. Regardless if others consider it not to be BLACK.

Healthy is Healthy no matter what race or culture.

Msladee March 4, 2011 - 3:09 PM

I see where the commentator ‘is going… but it the sentiment seems self-preserving rather community oriented. Colorism is a part of our culture- a sad sad part that hurts every phase of the spectrum and should probably die a horrible death. And it can, because it’s man made and travels word of mouth.
Culture is a man made social construct, and knowing the history of black people in America, it’s not hard to conceive that OUR social construct has been warped from external influences- right down to the food we claim as our food.

This is why I don’t believe the hype of soul food as a cultural phenomenon anymore. THE oldest self published cookbook by a black person was not indicative of the soul food palate (Malinda Russell, ” “Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen,”). Nor was it indicative of the a servant’s cooking guide or a wealthy person’s cuisine. It simply shows that black people, both then and now, have a wide range of taste. She was not a lone occurrence, however, many cookbooks at the time were not credited to black cooks, or if they were, they were written in thick dialect so as to show their lack of formal education. With all of that going on, is it really fair to attribute a seemingly monolith cuisine to black “culture”?

I understand the need to identify with a community and a culture just as other races of people, but there is no need to risk health for a social construct, especially one that isn’t a complete picture of who we were and who we are. Social constructs are made to give us building blocks, but once it becomes an obstacle, that part of the construct needs to be remodeled. Don’t think you are less powerful than something faulty, fallible people put together. Build YOUR construct with the pieces that help push you and yours higher. And don’t think you are going against your culture. Every single advance we’ve made as black people have come from some small group of black people doing something a little different. That’s just part of OUR culture 🙂

Dre March 4, 2011 - 3:46 PM

What I gathered from the post was how deep and diverse one’s battle and connection with food can be. It may seem out landish to think that her skin color is a factor in her food battle, but I guess it’s that deep for her. I can equate this to my own expereince w/ food choices around family because I feel the need, or USED to feel the need to not let it be known that I had changed my eating choices, so I’d try my best to make my plate look like every one else’s. I think I did this to protect myself and my husband from comments such as “Oh so y’all have all those degrees now and live in XYZ area so you can’t eat like us anymore”…..and yes these comments come from family. Sad, but so true. None the less, I love them inspite of, but @ times I don’t feel like going into the eating to live speech etc, so I just make my plate, and take the rest to go….and it ususally ends up in the trash before we get home.

Portia March 4, 2011 - 6:40 PM

The question highlighted is “how can I bear to loosen yet another line to those I love?” And it’s sad to see so many on this site (who surely must have experienced their own struggles with loving food–and other things–that aren’t right for them) so full of negative words for this woman who’s obviously looking for help. We all know about the emotions that come with eating, and here, she expresses one of hers: a sense of BELONGING. Sometimes, fitting in with a crowd (or a family) is more important than fitting into a dress. I hope she–and all of us, really–get the help to break those ties to the unhealthy things and people we crave, and thank you, Erika, for your part in that.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 4, 2011 - 7:20 PM

But Portia, is that not the problem? The fact that the way we frame these situations is what is, in fact, causing the problem?

I mean, and no offense to you at all, but in your comment… you frame the issue incorrectly. It’s not about fitting in with a crowd being pitted up against fitting into a dress. It’s about fitting in with a crowd being juxtaposed up against “actually living to see and enjoy – or reject – the crowd at our own leisure.”

This isn’t about skinny. It’s not about thin and it really isn’t about losing weight… especially when we’re talking about habits that have resulted in a collective communal problem of disease and, well, unnecessary death. Plain and simple.

The BGG2WL family – while harsh and blunt at times – has never been more than supportive of people who HAVE to make the hard decisions, and those decisions – in this case – just so happen to include having to bite the bullet and take the L for the team… especially when the people are so toxic as to challenge your existence – telling you that you can’t be what you were born SIMPLY because you don’t embrace this part of your culture – because you don’t do what they do.

It also needs to be challenged – this idea that Blackness is this. And if you reject this, you aren’t allowed to claim your Blackness. Um, I look in the mirror every day and face my Blackness. I look in my parents’ faces and see my Blackness. Not man, nor woman, nor plate of chitlins (pardon me while I cringe) can alter, change, reduce or delete that from my existence. Period.

Lastly, I’d like to think that the comments from the other women here have helped her see that MANY of us have had to face the same issue in one form or another, and we had to make the hard decision to suck it up and continue to be the change we wish to see in our peers… and many of us have also decided to not sacrifice ourselves and our health just to belong. It’s a struggle but we, here, are in this together. It’s just a fact.

Danielle March 5, 2011 - 11:12 AM

Portia I agree with you 100% and I appreciate your compassion. I feel like I got a totally different message from the OP than some other people on here.

Some people (black or not) are blessed to have supportive families, to where even if they think its funny you’re eating a salad instead of ribs, they’re cool. They may make a smart comment or 2, but you know they love you anyways so yea they can be annoying but you can brush it off.

Not every family is like that, and dare I say MANY families (again black or white) can be downright hurtful and to someone trying to be something different.

If the OP is reading this- your family /friends are USING the excuse of you ‘not being black enough cuz you’re eating healthy’ to hurt you because THEY are toxic. You are not the one at fault here. You could come up with the cure for cancer, and they would be ‘oh who she think she is coming up with the cure for cancer!’

From reading the original comment I think that there are deeper family/self love issues, and the food issue is just a manifestation of a deeper dysfunction.

Danielle March 5, 2011 - 11:57 AM

I have extremely mixed feelings about this post.

Firstly, I think it’s so awesome that posters are able to comment about the excuses that the OP is making. I think it is wonderful that you all didn’t have any excuses when you started eating healthier. And that you have the confidence to brush away hurtful, toxic negative remarks from those close to you. Bravo!

I admit the colorism comment threw me off- (Ms OP- I took a look at your profile from your link, and you’re brown skinned sista! I was expecting a Rashida Jones looking lady where you have to squint to see some color! :p)

The OP sounds like she is in a situation where she has not individuated from the her family. What that means is that she still sees herself like a child so whereas a strong adult can might get hurt over a negative comment, the strong adult can still use logic to brush it off. OF COURSE a person should put their health over what others are saying. We know there isn’t a law that says if you’re black you have to eat a diet of macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. But some people aren’t at that point to make those decisions.

To the OP- hon I really suggest some counselling. Your issues are not with food per se, but with your perceptions of yourself.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 5, 2011 - 12:13 PM

Regarding the colorism and her “actual” tone – “light skinned” depends on where you are regionally. I’m considered pretty dark when I’m up north in Indiana, but in Miami it’s not uncommon for the random person to call me some form of “light skinned.” It’s just about where you are regionally.

I mean, I get it that y’all want some kind of compassion and understanding, but after all that is said and done…. then what? You’re implying that we “KNOW” that there’s no requirement for “X Diet” in order to claim your Blackness… but then we, here, are saying that in THIS environment, it should be “KNOWN” that we’re not chiding anyone or trying to shade them or belittle their experiences. We’re getting down to the bottom line – which is what we do, here – and saying that after everything else is said and done, THIS is what you’ll be left with.

I just don’t get why saying “you have to start with learning how to avoid and evade this kind of criticism” is a not-compassionate response.

Danielle March 5, 2011 - 12:21 PM

” I just don’t get why saying “you have to start with learning how to avoid and evade this kind of criticism” is a not-compassionate response. ”

Ericka I see your point 110% however in this situation based on what she wrote I think there are deeper issues that are beyond food which is why I suggested counselling.

For me, and this may just be my work coming into play- the original post was a cry for help.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 5, 2011 - 12:39 PM

Well, do you see more to the situation than you’ve already posted here? I mean, this kind of thing is at the core of what I wanted my site to originally address – these real cultural issues that we’ve created as barriers to our health, and I know that MY family type isn’t the only type out there…. so, I’m sayin. Start spillin’. 🙂

Danielle March 5, 2011 - 12:25 PM

I don’t know, in my opinion, most people can at some point cut the crap, and come to the understanding ‘I dont have to live like this, and to hell with whatever other people think’ but I felt like it was deeper than that.

Danielle March 5, 2011 - 1:22 PM

“Well, do you see more to the situation than you’ve already posted here?”

Yes ma’am!
The OP said

Ok so this lady has fully internalized and accepted that what other people think of her trumps what she feels about herself and her health! That is so sad to me. But to complicate the matter even more, I don’t think that this is a ‘black’ issue. This is a self esteem issue that anyone black /white/green can have.

“Because we are hard on each other. We really are.” Okay Erika, if you’re looking for something in our culture to analyze it’s why are we as black/brown/lightbright sistas so damn hard on each other or dumb ish?!!
This issue is about her being light- *but* then we have people who were discriminated because they were dark- etc etc etc. WHYYYY do we do this ?! We are no longer on the plantation!

I mean think of the black blogs- I DARE you to bring up Beyonce’s name. Now there is a difference between ‘I dont care for Beyonce, her music is trash’ from the craziness that some of these sistas take it to. Why is that?

“And so many brown skinned black women all my life have gone out of their way to show me that, as a light-skinned black woman, I’m not as black as they are – literally and figuratively. ”

Okay this comes back to when I said this has nothing to do with food. I don’t know what this lady has gone through but it doesn’t sound nice.

If I were to wrap up this entire topic- I would just say that people (whether black white red) need to learn to love themselves and do what’s right for themselves.

Daphne March 5, 2011 - 2:42 PM

“If I were to wrap up this entire topic- I would just say that people (whether black white red) need to learn to love themselves and do what’s right for themselves.”

I hear you, Danielle, but I don’t see how this is any different from what the other posters have been saying. You (and Portia) implied that some posters weren’t that compassionate, and that some of us got a different message (which seems to be the wrong one, I guess?).

All I know about the OP is what she posted. If she wants to share more, or not, that’s her decision. There are few people completely free of issues, past hurts, current pain, and the like. But like Erika stated: after all is said and done…..then what? And I definitely acknowledged that it’s not easy to eschew family and friend value systems, in this specific context, about food and health. Is it simple? Yes, in my opinion, it is.

Clean eating itself is very simple, more than people make it out to be because of obfuscations like supplements, diets, protein shakes, flavor-of-the-month remedies/tricks, conflation of health and weight, etc. Is it easy? Is it convenient? Hell no! Unless clean eating and fitness were fundamental aspects of your environment as a child, continued into adulthood, it is tough making the transition. What I’ve read in comments and from Erika herself, whether this post or others, is that the ladies do it anyway, because it’s worth it. ThatDeborahGirl ultimately has to make that determination for herself, and this site provides support when she’s ready to do that.

ThatDeborahGirl March 5, 2011 - 3:34 PM

Oh. hell. Oh shizz. Oh damn……. *sigh*

OK. That “proper English” comment was made as a reply to something someone else had said about “proper English” being a part of something that supposedly sets black people apart and makes them “less black” in the eyes of other black people.

It’s just one of those thing that people say but is obviously not true. Speaking correct English doesn’t make anyone “less black” but we all know there are those who will call you bougie for “talking proper”.

And so….that brought it around to food. Which I never thought of before as an estrangement but I have to admit that I have eaten foods that I knew weren’t good for me just because I was around a bunch of other people doing the same thing. At home because there are healthier choices that my mother (whom I cook for daily) or other family simply won’t touch. Or because I’m out with my girls and there are some places they won’t go to or try because they are too “bougie” or “only white folks” or “uppity folks” go and eat there.

And don’t get me started on church meals where trying to present healthier options always lead straight back to chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken and maybe chicken and dumplings.

So anyway….I was only equating the “proper English” thing as one more thing along with light skin, and now food choices, that tends to make me persona non grata with other black people. Particularly, and maybe no one’s going to like this, browner skinned women who tend to hold me at arms length already anyway.

I know I don’t have to “prove” I’m black but it doesn’t stop other people from trying to make me feel as if I do sometimes.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 5, 2011 - 3:52 PM

I know I don’t have to “prove” I’m black but it doesn’t stop other people from trying to make me feel as if I do sometimes.

I guess my question, here, is… when you realize that you have this feeling, what do you do?

I mean, the commenters may not have the full context of your comment that you and I may have, so take what you can and leave the rest behind… but I don’t think you’re alone in the way you feel about these things. As I said, I’m writing an essay about this (posting it here, soon) so I don’t want to give away the game in the comments here… but I’m sayin’.. is it just glorified peer pressure or is it something deeper?

And that’s not to dismiss it at all, because peer pressure is a serious matter – we talk about peer pressure at our jobs, in our relationships, everywhere. That’s to identify it as something we all can relate to so that we can find a more sensible solution to situations that make us feel this way.

I do sincerely hope you don’t feel tooooooo put on the spot, here… but I did kind of put you out there, LOL. My bad, mama.

Maggie B March 5, 2011 - 3:56 PM

I have followed this discussion closely and appreciate all comments even those that I have disagreed with. I come to this blog for inspiration, suggestions, new ways of looking at things and yes, compassion. To be amongst my sisters who “get” the struggle. I am on a journey to better health.

But keep in mind dear sisters, some of us want to be where you are and we look to you to help us get there. I long for the day, when I am exercising and not thinking “Damn, am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” or when my daily thoughts are not consumed with food, calorie counting and when’s my next meal. While I recognize at times, the truth hurts and the reality is that the solution is quite simple…. I have yet to receive that Aha moment when it all becomes second nature.

What I got from the original poster is that it’s not about the food….because really it hardly ever is. Once she is able to answer that riddle, the rest seems to fall into place.

Just my two cents…. Now onto Zumba (At least there, I can pretend I am at a club and not exercising – lol).

ThatDeborahGirl March 6, 2011 - 1:14 PM


OK. So I went back and read every comment twice. In both threads. And I just want to say this: everyone is right. No one completely, but a lot of what is said here is true.

Please forgive me if I’m thread, blog hijacking, but this post is about something I said and I feel the need to explain myself (which is maybe part of the problem).

Originally I freaked out because I thought I had offended someone (maybe everyone) with my “proper English comment” and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be understood but a couple of people explained exactly what I meant before I came back to clarify and I was really relieved. You have no idea. How relieved I was. So that’s when I went back and read both things.

Ok. And then I read Danielle’s comments and I was floored. Like OMG, all those days I thought I just needed to see a therapist (and where was I going to find a black therapist, or black woman and why did I feel the therapist had to be black or a woman…)

But then Daphne chimed in: “There are few people completely free of issues, past hurts, current pain, and the like.” And I was like whew. OK. I am a normal person with maybe some issues, but hey, who doesn’t (thanks Daphne) and so much for therapy, I never really wanted to do that anyhow.

*deep breath*

OK. I am the kind of person who is just a tad bit preocupied with who I am, what I want and why I do what I do and think what I think. Just a little (ok a lot). My first post was really just heartfelt. I typed it out exactly as I thought it, very little editing from my head to my heart to my hands and my overall feeling was damn….I can’t believe I never thought of this before but maybe a minor issue behind why I don’t eat better is partly due to family and overall culture.

But I do realize it’s just a small part of my issues with food. Believe me when I tell you this will not be my fall back excuse for not taking the next steps to eating healthier. 15 years ago, hubby & I were on a solid diet of fast food. We went to cooking our own food, which while at first wasn’t healthy, was definitely better than our diet (and our budget) of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Chinese and various chain restaurants on weekends.

We eventually worked our way to cooking healthier meals – mostly around pasta, rice and we even had one vegetarian day a week. That was our peak of proficiency at healthy eating. But Danielle is right when she says that some of our issues run deep.

We lost a baby. I lost my job. My dad died. His mother died. My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We moved back in with her and I’d nearly forgotten about the food wars we’d had in the beginning and how it was so hard to find a way to feed four people on a tight budget and find something EVERYBODY liked, all at the same time and on the same day. And guess what most foods we like in common are? The starchiest, sugariest, salty things. There were some days that the only thing that came between me and just all out strangling my family was a box of Hamburger Helper.

My daughter went into high school and was a busy teen with all the teen angst that comes with those years. Hubby and I grew further and further apart. Relationship came to an end but we can’t afford to move apart from each other. Job stress. Lingering childhood issues. I went back to school. Found other jobs. Do I always have to be the only black woman where I work?

Actually at my current job I’m not. But the other black people simply will not talk to me. I mean, they literally will not SPEAK to me. Not ‘good morning’, not ‘goodbye’, not ‘excuse me’ if they step’on my foot (this actually happened!), not kiss my ass – NOTHING.

It took me awhile to reason this out, but I think I understand why. Where we work is predominantly white and the other black people there have an unspoken understanding: We will not group together on the basis of color. We must be seen as individuals at all cost and we will not speak to each other unless we come into contact each other strictly under the auspices of work related conversation.

It’s bizarre, but after 5 months of working there and passing by the other 6 black people who work there who will not even answer a simple “good morning” what else can I think? The white people simply do not do this. Even if they don’t know me, they at least acknowledge my presence.

But white or black, I was feeling an all around disconnect with my coworkers so just last Tuesday I threw a small party in my cubicle. If you’re a Harry Potter fan (omg, I am such a nerd) then March 1st was Dobby the House Elf Remembrance Day. So I decorated my cubicle in an HP theme and had meatballs and these tasty triangle chicken bacon cheesy things and spinach dip and mini blueberry muffins (in a nod to healthy stuff) a relish tray with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes.

It actually worked. My coworkers took it in the spirit it was meant. A crazy, fun, cool, “any excuse for a party” kind of thing and I got to know a few more people (still none of the black folks stopped by! this is maddening, but thanks to this thread I’ll probably just let it go).

And did I mention that my daughter went off to college and my only child, the very breath of my being has caused me to experience empty nest syndrome with a fierceness that takes my breath away and has left a void that can soemtimes only be filled with Crunch n Munch and giant tablespoons of chocolate chip ice cream?

So yes, I’m guilty of solving some of my life’s problems with food. And I really do understand that the cultural/ familything is just *one more thing* on top of the rest of my issues but it’s not the end all, be all reason of why I’m overweight (although I weight a LOT less than I once did). But now I will be more aware of this one more thing.

One thing I have learned – and I guess it takes the introspection and kindness of strangers to really learn some things you already know about yourself:

I don’t always make the best choices for me. I do care too much what other people think…especially those closest to me. And I have made decisions that were not in by best interest just to make others happy. And that’s a people pleasing something I’m going to have to work on.

*and then, I exhaled*

Lilangel May 22, 2011 - 2:33 AM

I understand what you are saying more than you know! I’m a light-skinned black female that had to go through all of that “you talk white” crap too! UGH! Sometimes, it seems as if you never leave grammar school! Other black women throughout my life jealous of my light skin tone, cute face, semi-valley girl accent (even though I’m from Chicago) and curvy body didn’t help. I always wondered: Why is it that Black people don’t seem to like me? Then I realized that it was just a few random jealous females and that I had plenty of lovely people in my life (Black and otherwise) that loved me very much, and I decided that it wasn’t fair to focus my attention on a few ignorant folks and take attention away them. Life has been good ever since.

I know how a difference in food choices (my diet is different from a lot of others) can be yet another point of separation between you and other members of your own ethnicity—especially when it affects your personal family life on top of other situations in other areas (your workplace for example). After all, home and family celebrations are supposed to be where you feel safe and comfortable. However, when you decide to be a better you, it can leave some people feeling threatened, intimidated, and GUILTY. Guilty in the sense that they feel that you bettering yourself highlights their own weaknesses. “Why can’t you eat the same food as us?” “Oh, this isn’t good enough for you huh?” Unfortunately you not being ‘Black’ is just another insult that can be hurled at you. It has nothing to do with who you are or anything you are doing wrong. They feel threatened and they are doing what they think will shift negative attention off of them and onto you.

My sister became a vegetarian when she was in the 5th grade and my mother gave her HELL for it! She did everything from guilting to making it religious! (“Even Jesus ate fish in the bible!”) I begged my mom to just leave her alone and made it known that I fully supported my baby sis, but she would not let up to save her life—but you know what? Neither did my sister. She just kept explaining to my mom that she didn’t want to hurt animals. She has just finished her first year in college and is vegetarian to this day. And guess what! My mom got over it. They both love each other just the same and they buy what she needs and prepare veggie options for her. And you know what else? Because of her awesome dedication to what she believed in, she now has a fellow family veggie! I’ve been vegan for three years now. 🙂

We all love our families and just want to make them happy (especially mom!) however sometimes two things happen. 1) People take life decisions WAY to personally and 2) we give them too little credit. Mom is an adult very capable of understanding that different people eat different things. Simply explain that you aren’t eating differently to insult her, just to be healthier! Then DO it and stick to it! If there is one thing I have learned throughout my entire life, its that even though people may disagree with someone, they are more likely to respect a person who sticks to their beliefs. Good way to even get mom involved is to pick out a few great recipes and prepare them with her! Show her that being healthy can taste amazing! Bring healthy dishes to family events! Yes, some people are still going to talk mess, but if it tastes good, TRUST ME, they won’t argue for long!

In the end, you just have to be you. Mom will be fine. Your family will be fine. Your REAL friends will be fine. And if they aren’t? You still have to be you. After all, I don’t imagine anyone stepping up to the plate to pay your medical bills should you need to have surgery to unclog your arteries! Trying to please everyone will get you nowhere (as you have experienced), but pleasing yourself will change your life.

REMEMBER! How people respond to you, whether its not speaking at work, or saying random things about your food choices, doesn’t always have to do with you—sometimes you will just have to leave people alone to get over their own insecurities. Do you! 24/7 all day everyday! 🙂

P.S. There are so many resources on the web for healthy recipes! Check them out girl! And happy cooking! 🙂

Jasmine March 6, 2011 - 5:54 PM

I completely understand this and have been exposed to this myself. But again one cannot say all black people think light skin are “not black enough” because some of the darkest people are proper or even has good hair. But my. Cousin once told me when I was eating a pork chop with A knife and fork that I better “eat like Im from the hood!” wow. I felt my face burning because it was so unexpected.

DNYC March 6, 2011 - 8:58 PM

What I didn’t understand in reading this was what relevance you being light skin had to do with food or weight management issue???? My feeling is that Dark skin African Americans do NOT create a litmus test as to who’s black and who’s not…. NO ONE here is pure or can post their lineage back to Africa… so my dark skin brethren and sisters need to get off that nonsense

As it relates to food… you are accurate… much of who we are culturally goes back to our food… However, we must reject those things we KNOW will kill us and it’s almost masochistic…. we fall victim to the peer pressure of our family and relatives even when they know we’re trying to eat healthy or make healthier food choices or smaller portion sizes…

I do somewhat disagree with you relating to holidays…. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Resurrection Weekend are three weekends where we can indulge in food that’s “not so healthy”… pass the greens!!!… but the other 360 days of the year… yeah… we need to focus our energy and attention on eating healthy and making good long term choices….

Thank you for this post

Shante March 7, 2011 - 6:35 PM

This is one of those things that make me soooo thankful that my mother is the woman she is. I was born and raised in Guam, lived in Hawaii and Socal. I have been around asian and other non “black” foods all of my life. I grew up eating foods from around the world and I love that. I really never knew that collards and such were “soul food” until that movie came out. I am soo thankful I do not have this connection to food that so many others have.

I remember one night at work my friend also a cook brought in this girl he started dating because he wanted her to see what he did. Soo he brings her over to the cold apps station and they just so happen to be shucking oysters and so he offers her one. This is a very nice restaurant and so these babies are fresh and of very high quality. This girl looked like someone offered her poop in a shell. I told her it was good and to just try it since she has never had one before. She listened and loved it. I don’t get how some black people can eat chicken/ pig feet, chitlins and other crazy foods but look at an oyster like it is poop in a shell.

Food is amazing and different in every country and culture. There are 100 different ways to cook an egg, so why stick to just 1. Enjoy it, love it but never let it define who you are. Black people are more than friend chicken.

As for the racial stuff I’m brown skinned and had light skinned people say they are blacker than me because I talk “proper” and eat kim chi, fancy french food and other stuff. You know what I couldn’t care less. Black is me and black is you. Accept no one’s definition of your life define yourself.

ThatDeborahGirl March 8, 2011 - 9:01 AM

What I didn’t understand in reading this was what relevance you being light skin had to do with food or weight management issue???? My feeling is that Dark skin African Americans do NOT create a litmus test as to who’s black and who’s not

As for the racial stuff I’m brown skinned and had light skinned people say they are blacker than me because I talk “proper” and eat kim chi, fancy french food and other stuff. You know what I couldn’t care less.

See what I mean? Both of these statements express something that I’ve gone through my entire life. There may not be a standard definition of “black” but there are people who think they have that defintion or at least a broad spectrum of behaviors, habits, ways of speech that make you black in addition to the color your skin. (I am lighter than my pics look. The second pic in the bunch is way more accurate than the rest. I didn’t photoshop the color values because I’ve had people come to my site and accuse me of being white – before I changed my hair that is! : )

It’s no secret to me that light skin makes you suspsect in the black community. It’s also not that hard to figure out why, I mean seriously. DNYC suggests that light-skinned discrimination doesn’t exist. But it does, or at least for me it has; as well as light-skinned privilege, which also took me way longer than it should have to figure out. But of the two, begin rejected by black people because of my skin color is way more painful.

Those light skinned people saying to Shante, “see, I’m blacker than you,” have internalized the same things I have. That they have something to prove. That “black” is not just a skin color, it’s a state of being and eating Fancy french food and oysters is not a part of that in their mind.

I thank God for this website and this discussion. It has given me so much “food” for thought. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person again.

Mayotte C. March 12, 2011 - 8:09 PM

So I must be from another planet of black.

I never knew how important it was to ” prove one’s blackness” for some of the fair-skinned sisters. I’ve never measured my blackness, by the color of my skin, nor by the copious amounts of soul food I do or do not ingest.* Blackness to me is about being knowledgeable of our history, and our present struggles/ victories.

It seems very strange that this individual is willing to risk her health in order to “save face”. There will come a point in which she must pick a side: herself or her dissenters (because it seems like they are winning. 🙁 ). Once I knew the dangers of my formerly unhealthy diet, you couldn’t pay me enough to pick up a fried chicken wing at anyone’s family reunion/birthday/ whatever.

In regards to the final comment:
I love Korean food/soap operas. I speak fluent French and hold two degrees from two separate ivy-league universities, so “I speak good english to.” These interests in no way separate me from the black community, but instead speak to my own individuality. I think this is a classic example of ” confusing correlation with causation.”

*On a side note Paula Deen cooks plenty of soul food and she’s a white woman from Georgia. WTF? I think soul food is tied moreso to the southern region of these United States. It’s only fitting since most of us are the descendants of slaves from southern plantations.

Lisa R. March 18, 2011 - 10:48 AM

Ok, I’ll start with the standard, “Longtime reader, 1st time poster – Erika, your site gives me life!!!” 🙂

I imagine that the posters all come from different areas of the US and the world. The “black experience” is different all over the country. As a transplanted northerner living in the south, I see both sides of the general themes here. One being, “I don’t know what she’s talking about with the light-skinnedism. I do what’s right for me, and even if it differs from what my family/friends do, it’s my life.” The other being, “I see how being a valued part of your family at any cost can lead you to behaviors that are ultimately unhealthy.”

My family is Jamaican, and there’s a holistic remedy for just about everything, not to mention a celebratory food. We happen to have vegetarians, pescetarians, and good ol omnivores throughout. While I could happily substitute a vegetarian alternative for most of what I eat, my mother is convinced that animals have nutritional value that cannot be replicated in any way by a vegetarian diet. To bring it more to the point, my Mom recently said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it! You look great!” Then, when I asked her not to make me any of some dish that I usually ate with a veggie instead of meat, she replied, “Why you can’t eat what we’re eating? It’s not good enough for you?” I just shook my head in frustration…and ate the damn food.

I see the OP as doing some healthy self-analysis, and the commenters as speaking from their own specific experiences. Does ThatDeborahGirl need counseling? Eh, I’d say that you could benefit from talking this through further with someone, but who doesn’t need an objective point of view from time to time? Regarding Deborah’s actual shade, as someone mentioned, yes, depending on where you are, what shade you are compared to the people around you, and where you’re from,”lightskinned” varies by a LOT.

As far as how to deal with the constant food wars at home and among family, we currently buy two different types of milk, different burgers, etc. Some foods Mom will ONLY prepare as she always has (ackee and saltfish does NOT come out well using olive oil pan spray – I tried!), but she has incorporated a lot of my technique and lots of fish so peace (usually) reigns. Moving forward may take wearing your Mom down, maybe some tough love (she’s gotta eat, right?) – worst case scenario is that you end up making two different meals every night. Much of the change that’s needed must take place inside you, so that you can dance up a storm at your daughter’s graduation party. I wish you luck moving forward – and a healthier work environment.

– Lisa R. aka @DoktaDivah

Phyllis April 17, 2011 - 9:10 PM

Things are so tight now money wise I have to be very careful what I buy.

RaynaSybelle May 22, 2011 - 11:43 PM

I feel that I can sympathize with her. My mom is light-skinned, and people always try to tell her she’s not black -especially when she doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold. Food can sometimes be that last thread that connects light-skinned or biracial people to the rest of the black community. It shouldn’t be that way, but it tends to be a lot of the time.

MP May 23, 2011 - 8:39 AM

Wow, it’s really nice that so many posters don’t relate to the OP’s experience of being derided or treated as less than by her own family, friends, and community and developing a misguided need to prove herself. It’s not nice however to trivialize her experience because it’s not yours. I can empathize, because to a certain degree her experience is mine.

On my proposed answers and solutions . . .

1. On the issue of other people and their views of your ties to African American culture, this is about internal work. As those with high self-esteem and strong grounding in their identity said, who are they to tell you who you are? Ultimately you must strengthen your own mind and relationship to self so that you can look at these comments to see them for the pure nonsense that they are. Also, you can’t change your family, but you can change your friends. You can also manage how much time you spend listening to their crap.

2. On your actual ties to Af Am culture, food is big, but it’s not the only thing we have. Like others said, you can still maintain your food ties on major holidays while making different choices the rest of the year. Every culture also has language, music, dance, religion, appearance, social customs, etc. that define it. Strengthen your ties to the other facets of African American culture. It’s kind of late for you to learn African American Vernacular English, but you can still dance. Dance moves your body and will help in losing weight if that’s your goal. You can still worship in traditional ways. You can do all that other stuff. Also, culture is dynamic because people are dynamic. We move it. We can move Af Am cuisine.
Af Am cuisine developed from African people synthesizing African, European, and American cuisine; making American scraps taste something like their traditional foods by any means necessary. Now that we have the choice to nourish ourselves with more than scraps, it would be more culturally reverent to revise the traditional recipes to cook higher quality meats and produce in a way that respects our bodies; in the ways enslaved people wanted to but could not. We can get a variety of spices from around the world now and we don’t have to drown low quality food in pork fat to make it palatable. Hell, be “super Black” and master some West African dishes for your repertoire.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 23, 2011 - 9:19 AM

Just a minor clarification…

…there is absolutely nothing wrong with organ meats or offal or, as you call it, scraps. I’ve yet to see anything that said they didn’t offer, gram for gram in muscle excluding bones, the same that a “quality” cut of meat might. In fact, considering the state of meat production in this country, THAT meat might be far leaner than what people are buying right now. This myth of “prized cuts” is why companies are ENGINEERING animals to provide larger chicken breasts and charge you $7 for two chicken breasts; caging cows, feeding them crap to make them fatter and then market that super-fatty meat to YOU as “quality marbling”; and why people have a hard time believing that they can afford to eat healthily.

There are restaurants in this country serving four fried green tomato slices for $16 as an appetizer, a plate of sweetbreads for $18, a bowl of collard greens (that amounts to less than a cup of greens) for $9 and a plate of chicken livers for $17. It is fine cuisine. It has been elevated. Maybe THAT is what it’ll take for y’all to stop perpetuating this myth. For fine restaurants to start cooking this stuff and putting it on fancy plates and selling it to you at eight times the cost. Sheesh.

MP May 23, 2011 - 10:18 AM

When I said “scraps” I wasn’t referring to organ meat. I know that organ meat and cuts that aren’t in fashion at whatever time can be good for you. I was just speaking to the fact that slaves were often given leftovers & remnants; that post-slavery, pre-processed food revolution the Af Am majority wasn’t necessarily in the position to buy the best cuts. That can include the fattier meats or meat that had been cured instead of fresh meat. Cured meat would be full of salt, right? Cooking off a piece of meat that was really more fat than meat could lead to developing a palate for greasier food, right? Likewise, a diet of cured meat makes a palate for high salt consumption.
It parallels today with the cheaper farmed and unnaturally fed seafood, engineered and unnaturally fed meat being the first choice for those of lesser means while organic, grass-fed, free range, wild, etc. are for the rich and privileged.
I’m sure you did just share some more knowledge with someone though.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 23, 2011 - 11:35 AM

The word “offal” that I used is those “remnants and leftovers” of which you spoke. Chicken feet, pigs feet, chitterlings, so on and so forth count as offal.

Cured meats aren’t necessarily only cured with salt. A “palate for high salt consumption” can be countered by a diet replete with potassium, which counters the effects of sodium in the body, something that slaves had no choice but to have, especially considering the vast amounts of okra and leafy greens my ancestors subsisted upon. It countered itself. As far as the fat goes, naturally-occurring fat isn’t the horrible thing it’s been made out to be.

Does it parallel today with the quality of the system at hand? Not quite, because the reason that the offal is considered undesirable is more for stigma than it is for actual informed health reasons, IMO. I may not eat the stuff, but I question turning it down simply because it isn’t “the best cuts.” That’s marketing. Again, gram for gram muscle excluding bones, that meat is no different from any other part of the animal and is probably far leaner than most of what we get nowadays. People who can’t afford $12 whole chickens who insist on having shredded chicken can still buy the offal, peel the meat from the bones and do just fine, though it might be “suspect” to others. *shrug*

MP May 23, 2011 - 12:35 PM

Good information about contemporary meat curing for those that may be interested.
Once again, I was speaking historically about the origins of Af Am cuisine because of the OP’s reference to not let go of culture. I thought back in the 1600s-1800s folk were primarily curing with salt. I would think that especially true in the South, if that stuff about humidity is true.

You have drawn yet another parallel to the problems of contemporary American diets in general with your potassium-salt balance tidbit. Eating “traditionally” doesn’t really work because the lifestyle is not the same. A lot of us no longer balance the sodium with a heap of greens. Just like many Americans don’t do enough physical labor to justify eating the diets that originated to do fuel that.
I’m going to monitor my potassium consumption more closely now, as my personal vice is salt where for others it may be sugar.

Natural fats surely aren’t as horrible as they were made out to be when I was a child. I was so glad when some experts retracted their cheerleading for hydrogenated oil products. Many of them don’t agree with my palate.

I still find it problematic to develop a palate inclined toward salt-heavy and greasy food in today’s world. Most of life is about balance moderation, right?

Did you take my original comment as an assault on Af Am cuisine? Twas not, but your replies imply that it was and also that I am a proponent of things that I am not a proponent of at all. I am not foodie or “fine” cuisine buff, so I am surely not defending stuff I know nothing about. I find this site and your comments quite educational. You seemed to have cast me in a certain role that I’m not playing (based on our different interpretations of certain phrases I used) to get your valuable information across in this instance. Great for your audience at large, but a bit disconcerting for me. I’m new though here, maybe I’ll get used to it. I’ll learn food industry code words that represent certain paradigms and interests.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 24, 2011 - 8:59 AM

As respectfully as I can say this, it isn’t about painting you a certain way. It’s not about you being a “foodie” either, mama. It’s merely about inaccurate information and the stigmas that originate from ’em. Don’t take it personally.

Jewel August 22, 2011 - 11:19 AM

Interesting post. I just hope the op can stick to her meal plan and eat healthier no matter what comments someone says to her. I know that mean comments from family hurt the most, but at the end of the day I want to live.
I don’t face comments from my family but right now I get comments from the people that I live with. They don’t really like tuna, or veggies, or fruit, but I do and that is what I choose to eat. I just let them make their comments and I keep moving forward.
I love this site too 🙂

Sherron April 28, 2013 - 9:15 AM

Love yourself & u will do what needs 2 b done in your life to be a healthy woman. If that means doing positive actions that change & improve your health such as daily exercise & eating healthy as well as not eating unhealthy foods just because they taste good & are popular or traditional. Too many of us are overweight, obese, unhealthy & have diabetes or high blood pressure due to what we eat & drink & these are preventable issues. Being healthy, physically fit & living to see your 90th birthday, looking & feeling amazing is more important than being seen by some as “black enough 2 b accepted” As a light-skinned AA female myself, i too can relate personally to some of your comments. I am 35 & continue to hear ignorant comments about skin color. Ignore the negativity. Do you, be strong, love God & love yourself enough to do what is wise 4 your health. Peace-n-blessings 2 u my sister! Be the Queen u were created 2 b.

Jayecy June 2, 2013 - 10:01 AM

I understand what she’s saying and I can relate. As a light skin African American woman, I have always been told that I’m not black enough . Everything from , the way I speak , dress and activities I choose to do were always deemed as ” acting white”. since most black family gatherings usually involve food , you can imagine the comments I got when I told them I had decided to be come vegetarian. It does make me feel alienated sometimes, I don’t get as many dinner invites as I used to. I deal with it though because I want to be heathy. my husband is also very supportive. but for some,those people who say those hurtful things, they are all that person may have in their life and going against them can be harder for them . I hope she can find her way .

Eva June 27, 2013 - 1:36 AM

As a light skinned woman who I guess “acts white” I hate that phrase but I’ve been told I’m a “White Girl” over and over again. But to whites I’ll always be considered blk, or part blk. Black women have been terrible to me, my whole life. Making me feel like I don’t belong, and I’m not cool. And I’m spoiled, Trust me I’m not spoiled, I lived well below poverty level but I enjoyed books and reading. I honestly think black women and white women would be better friends than black women with light skinned black women. Just saying this from my experience.

Shay July 22, 2015 - 5:05 PM

She needs to let it GO! She seems to have suppressed some issues dealing with her blackness. Like, Erika said, if you check “black” on the US Census, and your name us not Rachel Dolezal,then you’re black. Yes, black people are going to question your blackness because that’s what we’ve done for years. Some find it humorous, like the time-because I’m vegetarian and I don’t eat bbq- someone asked, “Are you a negro?” Uh, yes! But eating bbq doesn’t define my blackness and it shouldn’t with anyone else. I enjoy blackness because of the many shades that we can enjoy of our people. Yes, it results from the miscengation of our people, largely due to the white man, but it is a part of our reality, and it is a part of us. And, guess what, the fact I want to eat healthier food is a part us as well.The miseducation of the negro, grow and look beyond the stereotypical view that the white man had placed upon you, and unfortunately, many of us have bought into. Love should be at the core of everything you do, that’s what soul food is. It’s made with love. No matter if it’s vegetarian lasagna or collard greens.

Comments are closed.