Why Soul Food Is a 'Living Organism'
Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter on three eating practices to live by and why Black veganism makes so much sense
“When you start with love, justice is right around the corner.”
My guest on this week’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman is a dynamic guy of many titles. You might not know him yet, but I’m hoping that will change soon. His name is Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter, and he is an assistant professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego. He’s been working in Black communities for more than a decade on food sovereignty and liberation. His new book, The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice, asks a provocative question, one that hasn’t been asked enough: Given the harm that our food production system inflicts and has inflicted on Black people, what should soul food look like today?
Perhaps unsurprising given the title, Carter’s answer to that question merges a history of Black American foodways with a Christian ethical response to food and justice, and, by the way, includes veganism.
I was, frankly, a little nervous to chat with Carter, given my position about religion in general, but as you’ll see, he is warm, and funny, and inclusive, and his thoughts on the reimagination of soul food, plus the various and plentiful food injustices experienced by people of color, need to be heard. Enjoy this one: It’s interesting, it’s fun, and it’s the last episode of season two!
The recipes featured in the episode are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) OR email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with all your food-related questions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
Here’s another potato-vinaigrette combo, this time with sweet potatoes. Unlike some potato salads, this one is best served warm or at room temperature, though of course you can refrigerate and serve it up to a day later, as long as you take it out of the refrigerator beforehand to take the chill off.
4 large sweet potatoes
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/2 cup minced fresh mint or parsley
1 or 2 fresh minced chiles (like jalapeño, serrano, or
habanero), or to taste
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until you’re ready to dress the salad.
2. Make the dressing while the potatoes roast: Put the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and orange zest. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.
3. Toss the warm potatoes in a large bowl with the scallions, mint, and chiles. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to coat, adding more if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve right away or chill for up to several hours.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 20 minutes
Easy and infinitely variable. For a more flavorful sauce, use the liquid drained from canned tomatoes or vegetable stock to replace some of the water. Add up to 2 cups chopped vegetables: Greens, mushrooms, eggplant, or cauliflower would all work wonderfully.
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 1 28-ounce
can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
1. Put the pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red chile flakes, oil, and 4 cups water in a large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring and turning the pasta frequently with tongs, until the pasta is al dente and the water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
2. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in three-quarters of the basil, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with the remaining basil and the Parmesan, if you’re using it.