Africa: The world’s second largest and second most populous continent. Paleo-anthropologists consider Africa to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earth, with human species originating from the continent. Africa has a long history of slavery beginning with the Arab slave trade between the 7th and 20th centuries. Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7-12 million slaves to the New World. Today, there are 54 sovereign countries within the continent.
African-American: Ethnic group of Americans with ancestry from any of the Black racial groups of Africa. Also a term used to include individuals who are descendants of enslaved Africans.
Afro-Caribbean: Most Afro-Caribbeans are descendants of captive Africans held on the Islands from 1502 to 1886 during the Atlantic slave trade. Estimated 23 million.
African Diaspora: African diaspora populations include the descendants of West African slaves brought to the US, Caribbean, and South America.
a. the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland
b. people settled far from their ancestral homelands
Afro-Latin American: Latin American people of significant African ancestry. The Caribbean and Latin America received 95 percent of the Africans arriving in the Americas with only 5 percent going to Northern America. There are an estimated 100 million people of African descent living in Latin America, which includes the 67 million in South America.
Brazil: 57 million people – largest African diaspora population
Haiti: 8.7 million people
Dominican Republic: 8.5 million people
Cuba: 7 million people
Colombia: 5 million people
Venezuela: 4 million people
Ecuador: 1.1 million people
Aji: A name given by Columbus to describe spices or peppers.
Akara: Fritter made from black-eyed peas served with hot sauce.
American Bison: aka "buffalo." Only found in North America. They are the largest surviving terrestrial animals in North America. Historians estimate that the population of buffalo was around 30-60 million before the Western expansion, and only a few hundred remained by the 1880’s.
Angelfish: Fresh water fish from the Cichlidae family that originated from tropical South America such as the Amazon Basin. The fish is laterally compressed with round bodies and elongated dorsal and anal fins.
Appalachia: A region in the Eastern part of the United States that stretches down to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. There are many stereotypes of this region, one being that the inhabitants of Appalachia are poor and uneducated.
Appalachian Cuisine: Most widely known dish from the Appalachian is biscuits and gravy. Wild game and fish are staples of Appalachian cuisine due to the popularity of hunting. These meats are typically cured to make jerky. In addition, cornbread was commonly eaten and chicory was used as a coffee substitute. Instead of using molasses as a sweetener, sorghum and honey are traditionally used.
Aunt Jemima: A brand of quick-make breakfast foods, Aunt Jemima originally comes from a minstrel/vaudeville song called "Old Aunt Jemima" written in 1875. Her character as a stereotypical African American was inspired by this song and later was adopted to represent the Aunt Jemima brand.
Bacon: Meat product from the pork that is cured in a salt brine or by dry packing with salt. It can be made from the side and back cuts or from the belly. It is often fried or used as a flavoring agent in southern greens.
Barbecue: Historically pork. Slaves were tasked with readying meat for the smokehouse, slaughtering and butchering, salting the cuts, hanging dried meats, tending to low-burning fire under meat, and storing smoked meat. Pork and corn were the primary ration issued to slaves (average of 3 pounds of pork per week - feet, head, ribs, fatback, or offal). To hide the flavor of these cuts, enslaved people drew inspiration from traditional African cooking and used a mixture of red pepper and vinegar. West Africans used hot spices and continued this tradition of using hot spices by growing peppers in their gardens. Southerners adopted this hot pepper-vinegar method of flavoring meat and now serves as the base for BBQ sauces, particularly in North Carolina.
Barbecue N Carolina: Also known as Lexington style, this style uses a red sauce made up of ketchup, vinegar, pepper, and various spices.
Barbecue S Carolina: Similar to North Carolina, parts of South Carolina use a ketchup-based sauce while others use a “Carolina Gold” sauce made up of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices.
Barbecue Texas: Texas has four styles of bbq and primarily use beef.
Barbecue 1: Uses a sweet tomato-based sauce and is cooked over hickory wood.
Barbecue 2: Uses a dry rub and is cooked using indirect heat from pecan or oak wood.
Barbecue 3: Meat is cooked over mesquite wood.
Barbecue 4: Uses a molasses-like sauce.
Barbecue Slaw or Red Slaw: Cabbage salad that is dressed with ketchup and vinegar rather than mayonnaise. It is often seen in North Carolina barbecue.
Beans: A name used to encompass large seeds that are a part of the flowering plant family, Facaceae, and are used as food for humans or animals.
Butter Bean: A legume that is large and flat.
Pole Beans: A type of green bean.
Lima Beans: See butter bean. It is the same as a butter bean – in the American South, lima beans are called butter beans. When fresh, it is green. When dried, it is beige.
Pinto Beans: A common bean consumed in the American South. Typically seen in the form of refried beans.
Beer Cheese: Originating in Kentucky, it is a cheese spread made by mixing cheddar and beer.
Beignets: Fried pastry in the style of a doughnut. It is considered a choux pastry as it rises with its own steam. Today, it is most associated with the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Benne Seed: Sesame seed, also sesame oil - first arrived in South Carolina from Africa in the 1730’s and were eaten or pressed for oil.
Biscuit: Flour-based leavened quick bread that is round in shape with a firm darkened crust and soft interior. Typically served as a side dish to a meal and is often eaten with butter or a sweet condiment.
Big House: A term used by slaves to refer to the planter’s residence.
Black Cowboy: African American male who herd cows. It is said that blacks became “cowboys” because of their familiarity with cattle herding in West Africa. One in four of America’s cowboys were African-American and it was better to be a black cowboy on the ranch than a slave picking cotton.
Black-Eyed Peas: See cowpeas. Peas reached Florida around 1700 and then appeared in the fields and southern cuisine around the 1730s in North Carolina. George Washington brought 40 bushels of seed for planting on his plantation in Virginia in 1792.
Blues: A music genre that originated within the African American community in the South in the late 19th century. It has roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and European-American Folk music.
Bourbon: Type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn and aged in new wooden casks.
Bradford Watermelon: Greatest tasting melons of the antebellum period rediscovered in 2012.
Broad Leaf Mustard Greens: Part of the brassica family, it is a mildly flavored mustard green grown in the spring.
Brunswick Stew: Tomato-based stew with beans, corn, okra, vegetables, and a protein. It is thick, often consumed during the holidays and the type of meat used varies from state to state. Both Brunswick County in Virginia and the city of Brunswick in Georgia claim to be origin of the stew.
Brine: aka pickle. A solution made primarily from salt and water. Foods can be submerged in brine to marinate or cure.
Buffalo Soldier: Refers to African American members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army, which was formed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas in 1866
Burgoo: A spicy stew served made with game meats, corn, okra, tomatoes, cabbage, beans, and potatoes. It is often served with cornbread, cider vinegar, hot sauce or chili powder. It is usually prepared communally to be enjoyed as a gathering.
Cajuns: A member of any of the communities in the bayou areas of Southern Louisiana formed by descendants of Acadian exiles also known as French Canadians. Today, Cajuns are a significant portion of south Louisiana’s population and has influenced it’s culture enormously.
Cala: Sweetened rice cake served with coffee, formally sold by black women in the French quarter. In Georgia, it was called saraka.
Calalu: Thick soup similar to gumbo. The name comes from the African word coilu, which is a mandingo name for a plant resembling spinach.
Carolina Gold Rice: Grandfather of the long-grain rice that is non-aromatic. Charleston became the largest producer of rice in America since it arrived in 1685. It remained the dominant commodity in the area until the end of the Civil War.
Cast-Iron Pan: An apparatus that is valued for heat retention during cooking.
Catfish: Ray-finned fish with whiskers that are reminiscent of a cat's. Catfish has been caught and farmed for food in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. In Nigeria, catfish is cooked in various types of stews, particularly in a national delicacy known as “catfish pepper soup”.
Cayenne Pepper: A type of hot pepper originally found in the Caribbean.
Charleston Red Rice: See Jollof . A traditional meal brought over to the US by enslaved West Africans. White rice is cooked with crushed tomatoes, smoked meat, celery, bell peppers, and onion.
Chess Pie: A tart-like dessert seen in southern cuisine that is made with cornmeal and has an outer shell like a pie.
Chicken Fried Steak: Breaded cutlet dish consisting of a piece of beef coated in flour and pan-fried. The origins of chicken fried steak are believed to come from German and Austrian immigrants who came to Texas in the 19th century. It closely resembles wiener schnitzel, a tenderized veal or pork cutlet coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. It is the official state meal of Oklahoma.
Chicory Root: Part of the dandelion family. It was used as a coffee substitute, and in the Southern United States, as a coffee additive. In New Orleans, chicory coffee is served alongside beignets.
Chitterlings: Pronounced CHIT-lins. A dish usually made from the intestines of a pig that are boiled or stewed with aromatics. They can also be battered and fried and is served with hot sauce.
Chow-Chow: Pickled relish made up of vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, chayote, onions, carrots, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and peas. It is used as a condiment for fish cakes, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and many other foods.
Cobbler: A dish consisting of a fruit filling covered with a batter or biscuit. The cobblers in the American south are characterized by deep dish and thick crusts.
Cobia: Small marine fish also known as black kingfish or prodigal son found in warm temperate to tropical waters in the Atlantic Ocean and throughout the Caribbean.
Coca Cola: Invented in the late 19th century, it is an American carbonated soft drink produced by The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia. The name refers to two of its original ingredients, kola nuts and coca leaves.
Coffee: Word derived from kaffa, region in Ethiopia. It is a brewed drink made from the seeds of berries from the coffea plant that has been roasted. Coffea is native to tropical Africa and Madagascar.
Coleslaw: A salad that consists of shredded cabbage and dressed with vinaigrette that is buttermilk or mayonnaise based. It is served as a side dish in southern cuisine.
Collard Greens: Also referred to as collards, they are edible brassica leaves and are cooked with smoked meats such as ham hocks, onions, vinegar, salt, pepper, chili pepper, and sugar. It is traditionally eaten on New Year's Day in the Southern United States.
Comfort Food: Food that offers nostalgia or a sense of comfort. High carb, high sodium, or high sugar foods are typical of comfort food but can vary from person to person.
Conch: Type of sea snail used to make various soul food items such as gumbo and fritters, taking influence from the Bahamas and Jamaica.
Corn: Native Americans introduced corn to settlers. It was much easier to grow on less fertile land. Corn was the most common ration for enslaved people. Native Americans shared their expertise of growing and preparing maize with both Africans and Europeans, including making bread. This recipe and method is almost identical to the ways one would make hoecake, ash-cake, spoon bread, and cornbread.
Akpele: Ghanaian in origin, it is indigenous to the Ewe tribe. It is made from fermented corn flour, salt, and water. It can often times be mixed with cassava dough as well. It is then rolled into balls and eaten with one's hands.
Bank: See Akpele. The term is indigenous to the Fante tribe in Ghana.
Flint Corn: A variant of maize, it is one of the three types of corn cultivated by Native Americans. It is also the preferred corn for making hominy and is often used ornamentally during Thanksgiving. It has less soft starch than dent corn and creates a more coarse texture when used in cooking.
Dent Corn: A variant of maize with a high soft starch content. It gets its name from the small dent at the crown of each kernel. It is also the variety of corn used in food manufacturing as the base ingredient for cornmeal flour.
Popcorn: Type of corn that puffs from the kernel when heated.
Pone: Unleavened cornbread made by the Native Americans that is traditionally cooked in hot ashes.
Grits: A porridge made from coarse ground corn and boiled. Hominy grits are a type of grits made from hominy with the germ removed through nixtamalization. It is often served as a savory dish for breakfast but can also be eaten for dinner with shrimp.
Hushpuppy: A small savory fried ball made from cornmeal, eggs, and onions. It is served with seafood or other deep-fried foods. It is believed that the name comes from hunters and fishermen who would fry a basic cornmeal mixture and feed it to their dogs to "hush the puppies".
Kenkey: Similar to a sourdough dumpling, it is made with fermented maize and wrapped in banana leave or corn husks before steaming. It is often served with fried fish or stew.
Porridge: aka mush. A dish made by boiling ground or crushed starchy plants in water or milk. It can be made sweet or savory and is served hot. Porridge is also known as polenta, grits or kasha when made with cornmeal.
Johnnycake: aka hoecake, journey cake, or johnny bread. Originating from the native inhabitants of North America, it is a cornmeal flatbread made with yellow or white cornmeal, salt, hot water or milk, and sugar, then baked in a cast iron pan.
Polenta: A dish made from boiled cornmeal. It can be served hot as a porridge or cooled and solidified as a loaf that can then be baked, fried, or grilled.
Ugali: A dough made from white maize flour, millet flour, or sorghum flour cooked in boiling water or milk. It is rolled into a ball and dipped into sauces or stews.
Cornmeal: Coarse flour ground from dried maize. When cornmeal is fine and has undergone nixtamalization, it is called masa.
Cornbread: Cornbread was consumed by slaves who worked in the field because often times they were not given any time to cook. Cornbread was easy to eat as it did not require any utensils.
Corn Syrup: Made from the starch of corn. It is used to soften texture, add volume, and enhance flavor.
Country Ham: Cured pork that is typically salty. The term was first used to refer to a method of curing and smoking done in many of the states in the Southern US.
Cowpeas: aka black eye peas, the name comes from cows being allowed to eat their stems and vines after the corn crops had been picked.
Crawfish: aka crayfish, aka crawdads - Small fresh water crustaceans that resemble lobster. In the Eastern part of US, crayfish is commonly used, while crawdad is used in the north. Crawfish is used further south. It is used in soups, bisques, étouffées, or in boils.
Creole: Originally used to describe the descendants of French, Portuguese, and Spanish settlers. The term Creole comes from the Portuguese word crioulo, meaning a slave born in the master’s household (everyculture.com). In Louisiana, Creole refers to the French speaking populations of French or Spanish descendants.
Cuban/Cubano Sandwich: A variation of a ham and cheese sandwich that originated in the Key West and Tampa, Florida. There were early Cuban immigrants in this area and many cafes catered to these communities. It is made with ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread.
Curing: aka pickle The process used to preserve types of foods such as meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit by the addition of salt, nitrates, or sugar. This method draws moisture out of the food. In addition, curing can include smoking or spicing foods.
Dirty Rice: Creole and cajun dish made from rice and chicken offal with aromatics and vegetables.
Distillation: The process of purifying a liquid by successive evaporation and condensation.
Drippin’: Refers to animal fat from the inedible parts of a cow or pig.
Drum: See Red Fish.
Dutch Oven: A large and heavy cooking vessel with a lid typically made from cast iron.
Edamame: Immature soybeans in a pod that are typically served boiled or steamed.
Eggplant: An edible nightshade that is also called aubergine or brinjal.
Egusi: Member of the gourd family. Native to parts of Western Africa. Seeds are mainly used in west African cuisine, where it is dried and ground. Looks almost identical to watermelon, its cousin.
Farro: A type of hulled wheat that is considered an ancient grain. There are three types of hulled wheat, two of which are considered farro: triticum dicoccum or true farro, which is emmer, triticum monococcum or little farro, which is einkorn, and triticum spelta, which is spelt and cannot be interchanged with farro.
Fatback: Considered a hard fat, it consists of the layer of fat between the skin and the meat on the back of a pig. Often times, it is rendered to make lard or diced to make sausage or charcuterie.
Flip: Frozen fruit favored juice/dessert that is traditionally served in a Dixie cup.
Floribbean: Also known as New Era Cuisine, Floribbean cuisine melds foods that are indigenous to Florida and the Caribbean Islands. The cooking style and techniques are influenced by those of Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. The roots of Floribbean cuisine date back to the exploration of the New World by the Spanish.
Fonio: See millet. Ancient grain - type of millet that is nutty in flavor. Often described as a cross between couscous and quinoa. Has been cultivated in west Africa for thousands of years. It is gluten free.
Forage: To search for food or provisions from a place.
Fried Chicken: The origin of fried chicken is both Scottish and West African. Scottish immigrants brought the concept of fried chicken to the south but slaves used spices native to their country to enrich the flavor of the chicken. Because slaves were not able to raise expensive meats, chicken was often used and frying them became a common occurrence. It is often a gastronomical stereotype that all African Americans love fried chicken.
Fufu: “Turn meal and flour” mixture of cornmeal and flour poured into a pot of boiling water - hot cake, which later evolved into pancake.
Game Meat: Typically refers to an animal that is hunted rather than farmed. Winged game, ground game, and big game are types of categories.
Ginger Cake: Gingerbread, thought to have originated in the Congo.
Grains of Paradise: Same family as ginger and turmeric. Portuguese settlers traveled down the coast of West Africa with grains of paradise to sell in markets. European traders learned from African merchants about the cultivation and uses of grains of paradise. It was carried on ships that brought slaves to the new world.
Gravy: See Roux. Roux mixed with meat drippings. Often paired with biscuits.
Great Migration: The movement of 6 million African Americans in 1910 through 1970 from the south to the more urban and industrialized Northeast, Midwest, and West.
Green Peanut oil: Can be used as an alternative to extra virgin olive oil. It is made from Virginia peanuts that are pressed at low temperatures.
Green Tomato: A part of the nightshade family, it is a hard and unripe tomato that comes from any variety of tomato. Often seen fried in southern cuisine.
Greens: Inspired by boiled vegetables and one-pot meals common in West African cuisine. Slaves would gather and boil various leafy foods and flavor the dish by boiling a piece of pork fat or bacon with the vegetables. The rations served as a way to flavor dishes.
Grits: Made from hominy by grinding hulled corn and cooking them. Grits are similar to eb, which is eaten in Africa.
Grouper: The name comes from the Portuguese word "garoupa" used to describe a type of fish. It is found in the coastal regions of the Western Atlantic Ocean.
Guinea Corn: See sorghum and millet; indigenous African crop, originally used to make bread.
Gulf Coast: The area in which the Southern United States meets the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf States: States in the United States that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico.
Gullah Geechee: A people who trace their roots directly to West Africans carried across the Atlantic to work on plantations in North Carolina and Georgia. Gulluh people can still be found in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It is said that the Gullah Geechee are one of the most authentic African American communities in the US.
Gumbo: Comes from a West African word for okra, quingombo.
Hearts of Palm: Also known as swamp cabbage in Florida. It is harvested from the inner core and growing bud of various different types of palm trees. Swamp cabbage comes from the cabbage palm tree, known as the sabal palm which is Florida's state tree. Once the heart has been harvested, the tree dies.
Ham: Hind leg of a pork that has been preserved by salting or smoking.
Hamburger: Sandwich made up of ground meat, typically beef, served on bun.
Headcheese: Cold cut that originated in Europe. It is a terrine made with the flesh from a calf or pig's head and aromatics. The pickled version of head cheese is known as souse.
Ham Hock: Also known as pork knuckle. It is the joint that attaches the foot to the hog’s leg. Though it is not considered fatty, the collagen is what makes it tender.
Hoecake: see johnnycake.
Hog Maw: Pork stomach also known as pork tripe.
Hominy: Made from dried maize kernels that have undergone nixtamalization, which removes the hulls from the kernels making them softer and easier to digest. Hominy is also made into grits.
Honey: Sugary food substance produced by insects and used to sweeten food.
Hoppin’ Johns: Traditional West African dish of black-eyed peas and rice.
Jam: A spread made from fruit or vegetable juice and flesh. The whole fruit or vegetable is crushed and heated with water and sugar to activate its pectin.
Jambalaya: Created in Louisiana. Said to have been a version of Thiéboudienne, the national dish of Senegal (jollof rice).
Jazz: A music genre that originated within the African American community in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has roots in West African culture and musical expression and has spread around the world, which gave rise to many different styles.
Jelly: A spread made from only fruit or vegetable juice, making it different from jam.
Jerk: Originated in Jamaica, it is a term used to describe how a meat is seasoned or cooked. It is a marinade or paste that primarily consists of pimento and scotch bonnet. The word jerk is said to have come from the Peruvian word charqui, a word for dried pieces of meat.
Jollof Rice: See Charleston Red Rice. A Style of cooking red rice brought to America by the Mande people of West Africa.
Jowl: lower part of a human or animal's cheek. For culinary uses, jowls come from pork and are typically cured and smoked. It is considered a staple of soul food and is seen as Guanciale outside of the United States.
JuneBaby: n. A seasonal neighborhood restaurant melding the diverse cuisines of West Africa and the southern parts of the Americas.
JuneBaby: n. A historical journey of the migration from Africa to Northern America told through the story of food.
JuneBaby: proper n. The childhood name given to Chef Edouardo Jordan’s father.
Kansas City: Uses a combination of a thick tomato-based sauce and a molasses-based sauce.
Kola: Trees were native to Western Sudan and the nut became the principal ingredient used to make modern cola drinks. Kola nuts were given by crews to passengers to suppress hunger and thirst during slave trade.
Kool-Aid: Brand of flavored drink mix. It is often a gastronomical stereotype that all African Americans love Kool-Aid.
Lard: Often from pig fat in both rendered and un-rendered forms.
Lemonade: Sweet beverage made from sugar and lemon. The earliest evidence of lemonade has been found in Egypt.
Lowcountry: Is a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, which also includes the Sea Islands. It was once known for its slave based agricultural wealth in rice.
MFK Fisher: aka Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher. MFK is an American food writer who wrote about food literature, travel, and life. Her first book Serve it Forth was published in 1937.
Maize: See corn.
Maluvu: Palm wine made from sap or jic of palm trees.
Maple syrup: A thick sauce-like consistency made from the sap of a maple tree used to sweeten food such as pancakes, waffles, or porridge, and can be used in baking.
Mason Dixon Line: The border dispute between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America.
Meatloaf: European in origin, it is a baked dish made of up ground meat, such as beef, mixed with other ingredients and is shaped into a loaf.
Melon: A plant in the Cucurbitaceae family that originated in Africa and southwest Asia with an sweet edible inner flesh.
Memphis: Meat is prepared either wet or dry. When using a dry rub, it is primarily paprika based. In addition, a “mopping” technique is used to flavor the meat by adding water to the dry rub creating a thin sauce.
Middle Passage: The crossing from Africa to the Americas. The name comes from the middle section of the trade route. The first section, Europe to Africa, was called the Outward Passage and the Return Passage was the final journey from the Americas to Europe.
Millet: Cereal grain, part of the grass family. It is grown for its seeds. Pearl millet is the most widely grown and believed to have originated in tropical western Africa. Finger millet is thought to have originated from Uganda.
Mississippi Delta: Section of the Northwest part of the Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. This region has been called “The Most Southern Place on Earth” and was once the richest cotton growing areas.
Molasses: A viscous by-product of refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. It is primarily used for sweetening and flavoring foods.
Moonshine: Also known as white liquor, hooch, or white whiskey. It is a term used to describe high-proof distilled spirits made from corn mash that was produced illegally.
Motown Music: Motown was originally a record company founded by Berry Gordy. Many successful black artists such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson & The Jackson 5, and Lionel Richie were associated with Motown and brought together a racially divided country through music. It made a huge influence on society and to this day, no other record company exerted such an influence.
Mullet: Type of ray-finned fish found on the gulf coast or in tropical waters. During the Second World War, it was used as a meat substitute.
Mushrooms: a species of macrofungi that do not create a poisonous effect on humans. They are either foraged or cultivated. Southern mushrooms include morels and chanterelles.
Morels: Prized mushroom part of the sac fungi family that are honeycomb in appearance.
Chanterelles: Mushroom part of the cantharellus family. Typically orange or yellow in color and funnel shaped.
Native American: People descended from the Pre-Columbian indigenous population and are composed of various distinct tribes, bands, and ethnic groups.
Neckbones: Comes from the neck of an animal, typically a cow or pig in southern food. It is an inexpensive meat option and is often seen stewed with collard greens and onions or in soups/gumbos.
Nixtamalization: Process in which maize or other grains are soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution and hulled. This process is used to make cornmeal, hominy, and masa.
Offal: Pronounced aw-fall. A term that encompasses the organs or internal meats of butchered animals. Similar to oxtail, it was considered the undesirable part of the animal and was given to enslaved Africans.
Okra: Origins in West Africa and/or South Asia, okra is a following vegetable in the mallow family. Okra leaves were used medicinally and the seeds were used to make a coffee substitute on the plantations of South Carolina. Also used by women for abortions. In West Africa, women still use okra to produce abortion. Okra arrived in the new world in the 1600s.
Opossum: Marsupial mammals often eaten with sweet potatoes and prepared by smoking and stewing.
Oxtail: Refers to the tail of a cattle. It was considered the undesirable cut of meat and was given to enslaved Africans by their masters.
Oyster: Salt water bivalve in the mollusk family that is consumed raw or fried. Some oysters are harvested for the pearl product.
Paprika: Native to South America. Hungary and Spain are the two main countries that grow paprika peppers.
Pea: Seed from a pod, see cowpeas or black eyed pea.
Peanut: aka groundnut, earth nut, and ground peas. Originally from South America, it was brought to Africa by the Portuguese sailors/Spanish colonies then to Virginia via enslaved Africans. It was used to feed Africans during the crossing of the middle passage and called goober, the Bantu word for peanut. The first known records of the word are in Jamaica in 1707 and in South Carolina in 1848.
Persimmon: Edible fruit that is botanically considered a berry and is cultivated. The most well-known species is the Japanese persimmon.
Pickle, vinegar: Perishable foods that are preserved in vinegar or a brine.
Pie: Baked pastry with a savory or sweet filling that is typically covered with another pastry dough or crust.
Pimento Cheese: Considered a southern delicacy, it is a mixture of cheddar cheese, pimento pepper, and mayonnaise. It is served with saltine crackers. Pimento cheese actually has origins in New York during the late 1800's due to industrial food manufacturing. In 1911, pimento cheese was booming within the nation and Georgia began cultivating domestic pimento peppers due to the demand of the sweet Spanish pepper. It is believed that Georgia was the reason why pimento cheese became a southern classic.
Plantation: Large area of land where crops are planted for commercial sale. It is typically tended by resident laborers. Slavery was the main source of labor for Plantations in the American South.
Po' Boy: Sandwich that originated in Louisiana. It typically consists of fried seafood served on a small baguette. Though there are many theories on the origin of po’boy, the most popular theory claims that the term was coined in New Orleans by restaurant owners Benny and Clovis Martin. They were formally streetcar conductors and in 1929, there was a strike against the streetcar company. During this time, the Martin brothers served the strikers sandwiches and jokingly referred to them as “poor boys,” which was shortened to “po’boy” in Louisiana dialect.
Poke Salad: Wilted pokeweed. See Pokeweed.
Pokeweed: Type of plant that is actually quite toxic and is native to the Eastern part of the North America, the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast. Poke is a traditional southern Appalachian food where the leaves and stems are boiled multiple times to remove the toxicity of the plant. Often prepared fried like okra or cooked with fatback.
Pork: Domestic pig that is consumed for food worldwide. It can be eaten cooked or preserved. Examples of preserved pork include smoked pork, bacon, charcuterie, and sausage.
Potlicker or Potlikker: A term typically used to refer to the broth in the pot from cooking greens.
Quince: A part of the Rosaceae family, it is a pome fruit similar in appearance to a pear and is a bright golden-yellow when mature.
Rabbit: Historically has been a slave food as it was hunted and prepared by slaves.
Raccoon: Like opossum, raccoons are a common meat consumed in rural parts of the south.
Ramps: Wild allium.
Red-Eye Gravy: Made from drippings of pan-fried sausage, country ham, bacon, or other cuts of pork mixed with black coffee.
Red Fish: Also known as channel bass, spottail bass or simply red. It is a term used to describe various types of deep-sea rockfish in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rice: Historians believe that the successful cultivation of rice occurred in South Carolina sea islands when an enslaved woman taught her white owner how to grow it. The first rice seed used for farming was imported from Madagascar in 1685. Africans of Senegal familiar with growing and cultivating rice were the reason why rice production in the Carolinas existed and for it's booming economy. Africans who specialized in rice cultivation were imported directly from the island of Goree.
Roux: A sauce made of fat, such as butter, and flour. It is the base of many stews seen in Cajun cooking such as gumbo. Also the base of gravy.
Rum: aka Rhum - A distilled alcohol made from sugarcane. This liquid is then typically aged in oak barrels to get its golden color. Majority of the world’s rum production occurs in the Caribbean and Latin America. Historically, rum was used as economic exchange, which helped fund slavery.
Rye: Type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% rye.
Salt Pork: Also known as salt-cured pork and resembles uncut slab bacon. It is prepared from pork side, pork belly, or fat back and is seen in dishes such as pork and beans and greens in southern food.
Sassafras Leaves: Originally used as a thickener for gumbo.
Sausage: Ground meat or meat trim such as organ meats, blood, and fat made into a cylindrical shape using a casing traditionally made from intestine. Sausage making is a form of food preservation by way of curing, drying, or smoking.
Scotch Bonnet: Cousin of habanero. type of pepper Jamaican in origin and commonly used in Caribbean foods.
Sea Island Red Peas: Heirloom bean, was used to make hop’n john.
Sea Islands: Chain of tidal and barrier islands on the southeast Atlantic ocean coast of US. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the Sea Islands were the scene of intensive activity by the civil rights movement.
Semolina: A wheat product that comes from milled durum wheat used to make pasta and baked goods.
She-Crab Soup: Rich soup made of milk or heavy cream and crab stock and crab roe. Regional specialty of South Carolina Lowcountry. The name comes from using female crabs for their roe.
Short Ribs: Cut of beef consisting of ribs.
Shrimp: A type of crustacean and is synonymous with the term prawn. They are typically found on the coastal regions in addition to rivers and lakes. It is a common ingredient in Cajun cuisine
Slave chefs: In the 17th century, slaves replaced indentured servants in the plantation’s kitchens. These enslaved cooks created the meals that fed the South. Many remain unnamed with little known about them, but George Washington’s enslaved chef, Chef Hercules, and his story is well known. He used his skills in the kitchen to transition out of slavery and into a successful career in the culinary world.
Smoking: the process of cooking and/or flavoring a food with a burnt substance.
Snapper: Type of fish found in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Snapping Turtle: Fresh water turtle. See turtle soup.
Sodawater aka soda pop. A drink consisting of soda water, flavoring, and a sweet syrup.
Sorghum: A cereal grain in the grass family. Typically used for sweetening in food as a syrup but can also be used as a grain or flower. This crop has been growing in Africa for 4,000 years and was brought over via the transatlantic. Thought to have originated in Ethiopia or Sudan. It is gluten free.
Sorghum Syrup: Made from grass stalks, it is commonly used in Southern Cuisine to sweeten pancakes, cornmeal, grits, and other hot cereals.
Soul Food: Term used to describe African American cuisine. It originated during the Civil Rights Movement when the word “soul” was used to describe black culture.
Souse: Spreadable headcheese terrine typically made from pig or calf and is pickled.
Squash: Part of the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, that consists of five species and is grown for their edible fruit and seeds. It was first cultivated in the Americas and then explorers of the New World brought it back to Europe.
Squirrel: Popular game meat in the south.
Succotash: An American dish made of cooked corn and lima beans. Other ingredients include tomatoes, green or red peppers, bacon, and okra.
Sugarcane: Enslaved Africans were an integral part of cane cultivation and sugar production. Slaves were brought to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations via the middle passage.
Sweet Potatoes: Like corn, it grew well in less ideal soil making it more accessible to enslaved people and lower class whites. Also like corn, the prevalence of sweet potatoes in southern food is a marriage of African and Native practices. It resembles the yams of West Africa.
Sweet Tea: Served as an ice tea, it is served year round in the south. South Carolina was the first place in the US where tea was grown. Green tea was originally used and large amounts of sugar was mixed in to the cooled liquid. Lemon is also used to balance the sugar in the tea.
Syrup: A thick, sweet liquid prepared for table use.
Tamales: A dish made of a corn-based dough such as masa that is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. It can be filled with meats or cheeses.
Tex-Mex: A regional cuisine. It is a term that was originally used for the Texas and Mexican Railroad then turned into a term to describe the Mexican descendants living in Texas. It is now a label to describe the Mexican-style food found in this region.
Thomas Jefferson: Was an opponent of slavery his entire career and his views were considered radical in a world where forced and unpaid labor was the norm. In 1778, he drafted a law in Virginia that prohibited the importation of enslaved Africans and in 1784, he banned slavery in the Northwest territories. He did not believe that white Americans and enslaved blacks could not live together successfully in the same country should slavery continue.
Tilesfish: Bottom feeders that are found in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Tilefish resembles sea bass in appearance. They were first discovered in 1879 off Nantucket Island and were commercially fished for a few years.
Tobacco: Part of the nightshade family, it is a product made from leaves of the tobacco plant that have been cured. It is mainly used for smoking but can also be chewed. Tobacco has been used and grown in the Americas for centuries by Native American tribes and became a popular trade item after the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas.
Tomato: Edible fruit that belongs to the nightshade family. The fruit originated in Central and South America while its use as a food originated in Mexico, spreading throughout the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
Trans-Atlantic Trade/Atlantic Slave Trade: Took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through 19th centuries where West Africans from the central and western part of the continent were captured and sold by other western Africans to European slave traders.
Trotter: aka feet. Pig feet primarily made of cartilage, tendons, and meat. Often braised or pickled, it is also used to make stock.
True Cane Syrup: Made from sugarcane stalks that are pressed, strained, and boiled down to a thick consistency. It was the main source of sweetness for the last 100 years as it was the most affordable form of sugar.
Turkey: Large bird native to the Americas. There are two species of turkey, one of which is meleagris gallopvo, which is consumed by humans. Turkeys were first domesticated in Mexico and are selectively bred to be large in size.
Turtle Soup: Soup or stew made from the flesh of a turtle. Snapping turtle is the main variety used in the Southern United States.
Venison: Meat of a deer, found in Appalachian cuisine and is often smoked.
Watermelon: Spread from Sudan to Egypt during second millennium BCE. The transatlantic slave trade served as the major vehicle in bringing watermelon to the new world. Slaves planted watermelon in the fields to enjoy during the hottest months of summer. It is often a gastronomical stereotype that all African Americans love watermelon.
West Africa: Most western subregion of Africa that consists of 18 countries. Settlements were being established in 1445 by various different countries and soon after, the African slave trade began. As a result, the slave trade debilitated the region's economy and population.
Whisky: aka Whiskey. Distilled alcohol made from fermented grain mash such as barley, corn, rye, and wheat.
White Peas: Small to medium sized legume that can be eaten in the pod or harvested when matured and dried.
Yams: Most common African staple that fed enslaved Africans onboard ships.
All definitions are sourced from a collaboration of books, the Interwebs, and our intellect.