In “Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration,” the television chef redefines and reclaims the true food of African-Americans. While on her journey through Southern states to visit landmarks, she imagines how our ancestors might have lived, cooked and ate. Hall does a great job of capturing the farm-to-table concept that they practiced for centuries.
The cookbook features 145 recipes with an emphasis on fresh vegetables, beans and grains. I love the way Hall distinguishes “celebration” and/or “everyday” foods on each one. It helps people with meal planning. She also provides a list of celebration menus for events such as game day, Sunday suppers and Juneteenth. I find this a fun way to navigate the pages.
The easy-to-follow instructions offer light, simple fare that boasts seasonal ingredients found in most kitchens or at local supermarkets. Some good examples include creamed kale, glorified grits soufflé, sweet potato rolls, plum cobbler and Caribbean smothered chicken with coconut, lime and chiles. Furthermore, the cookbook contains plenty of images to excite the palate, such as the molasses baked chicken wings. I can confirm this notion due to the ripped paper I caused in the book’s crease.
Hall grew up in Nashville, Tenn., eating “good-for-you” soul food prepared by her granny, a hospital dietitian. She graduated from Howard University and traveled throughout Europe as a model. She returned to the states and lived in Washington, DC. There, she started a lunch delivery service that served soup, sandwiches and pound cake. She went to culinary school, where she learned how to cook European and French cuisines. She excelled as an executive chef, so she decided to become a private chef and open her own catering company. She participated as a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” where she was named fan favorite. Later, she landed a role on ABC’s Emmy Award-winning show “The Chew” and now is a contributor on “GMA Day.”
Soul food makes Hall happy, probably the reason she keeps a smile on her face. She enjoys some version of it on a daily basis or special occasions. Her goal is to pass the torch to others so that they, too, can experience and preserve a little bit of America’s history. I highly recommend this delightful read as a soul-searching resource.
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