This chapter called Soul Food – Mama’s Cooking Leaves Home for the City, holds a special place in my heart because it is a period that I can very much relate to although I didn’t personally witness it. This period directly echoes my grandmother’s experience and her verbally passing it to my sister and I. The time period that the book is focused on is 1961-1970, which is just a snapshot of a larger timeframe when many southern blacks moved from the south to head north and west in what was termed as the great migration. Our grandmother, along with her sister’s and brothers left Andersonville, GA for the northeast and took Mama’s cooking with them as well. “Mama’s cooking” stretched up the I-95 corridor, past New York to a smaller New England city called Stamford, CT where it manifested itself in backyard cook outs, Sunday dinners and everyday meals. For my family, Mama’s cooking would stretch a few more miles east to a sleepy, suburban town named New Canaan. For as long as I can remember, the standard answer when I ask my grandmother why she used a certain technique or cooked a certain dish has been “because that’s how Mama used to do it,” no other explanation giving and no other explanation needed.
As a child, I didn’t realize the impact that my grandmother’s culinary and personal history was having on me and only in my adult years have I recognized and embraced it. As my love for food and interest in cooking grew, many of these past memories and experiences began to make sense. Like most kids, I didn’t have much interest in my grandmother’s stories but now I relish in them. When I go over to her house and cook I am rewarded with a story of the past about a pie that mama used to cook, a fish market they used to buy cheap porgies from and fry fish in their early days in Connecticut. These stories may have been told to me before but I may not have been ready to listen but now my ears and stomach are wide open.