Paula Struckman
Cultural Confidential Contributor

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January 10, 2013
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Community Cinema presents documentary screening of "Soul Food Junkies"

"Soul food" - barbecued ribs, crusty fried chicken, grits and eggs, cornbread, black-eyed peas, ham hocks, macaroni and cheese, collard greens with pork fat and sweet potato pie - scrumptious southern cooking.

Filmmaker Byron Hurt wanted to be just like his "Pops" and grew up emulating his dad with an appetite for home-cooked soul food. That is, until Hurt realized his father was very overweight, could not change his desire for soul food, and was in danger of serious health problems.

Therein lies this tale.

Why was high caloric soul food such an important part of Black-American culture? Was it more than the food itself? As one woman stated, "It's comfort food, you eat it and you feel better." Interviews with family, friends and scholars affirmed that sharing food was family tradition. In times when people had little money, they came together, talked together, cooked together.

Hurt researched the culinary evolution of African-American food. The history is fascinating; Hurt narrates the arrival of African slaves to the Americas, the food given to them by plantation owners, the necessity of planting gardens, black women cooking in the kitchens, and the plantation owners' children developing a taste for African-American cooking.

In the turbulent 1960s, the blacks sought to reclaim their culture, and the term "soul food" was born. Soul food was romanticized, but activists like Dick Gregory and The Nation of Islam preached that soul food was unhealthy. However, changing this tradition would be slow and difficult.

Along with other enlightened blacks, Hurt's mother and sister began substituting oven-baked chicken for fried chicken, serving fresh greens without pork fat, and adjusting traditional recipes to more healthful ones. Hurt's father could not understand the new trend in cooking; he died at the age of 63 of pancreatic cancer.

Hurt found that blacks share common health problems, e.g., pancreatic cancer is 50-90% higher in blacks. Soul food is only one part of the problem; a more sedentary lifestyle is another.

Get to the heart of soul food, its history and more, in Hurt's documentary, "Soul Food Junkies."

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 10, 2013 03:45PM Published Jan 10, 2013 03:14PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.