Soul food historian Adrian Miller says he “drops knowledge like hot biscuits,” which he did at the Soul Food Symposium held at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee's Selby Auditorium on April 4.
Miller, a former lawyer turned soul food scholar, was the keynote speaker at the event and gave a lecture about the history of soul food, from the term’s origins in a Shakespeare play to the stories behind such dishes as macaroni and cheese, candied yams and black-eyed peas.
Miller, who also worked as a special assistant to former President Bill Clinton as the Deputy Director of the President’s Initiative for One America, won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award for his book “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.”
The symposium was hosted by USF Sarasota-Manatee's Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching, the campus' Multicultural Affairs Committee, New College of Florida and the Mellon Foundation in an effort to bring together the campus community and the public to celebrate the histories and influences of soul food, which has its roots in Southern cuisine, as well as food traditions from other cultures.
“Food is a gateway that connects us,” said Denise Davis-Cotton, coordinator for the Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching. “It carries emotion and memory. Food is the art of stability. It is the most basic part of culture. For these reasons and more, today is a great day to consume and learn about the rich history of soul food.”
Guests enjoyed a lunch featuring soul food staples such as collard greens, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and peach cobbler.
Davis-Cotton said the event was held on the same day as the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination as a way to commemorate and honor his legacy and love for food.