Adrian Miller

In celebration of Black History Month, we partnered with James Beard Award-winning author, Adrian Miller (aka the Soul Food Scholar) to share the history of soul food and delicious recipes.

About Adrian Miller

Adrian Miller is a food writer, James Beard Award winner, attorney, and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, Colorado. He has served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a senior policy analyst for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr., and a Southern Foodways Alliance board member. You can find more about Adrian on his website.

Soul Food

Excerpted from Soul Food, The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller

Down through history, African American cuisine has gone by several names since enslaved West Africans arrived in British North America: slave food, the master’s leftovers, southern food, country cooking, home cooking, down-home cooking, Negro food, and soul food. Those are the more polite names that have been used. Of them, “southern food” and “soul food” are the labels most used, but they also tend to confuse. [I want to explore] where southern food ends and soul food begins, and why soul food became the most recognized aspect of African American cooking. My hope is that by sharing the intriguing story of how soul food developed, people of all stripes will be more apt to try this cuisine. Soul food’s not in immediate danger of becoming extinct, but it certainly faces the prospect of being needlessly obscure. That can change if stereotypes of and negative associations with soul food become perishable items instead of something processed for long shelf life.

Does Soul Food Need a Warning Label?

You may think that you know the true history of soul food, but you probably don’t!

In this video, Adrian Miller traces the journey of soul food from West Africa to the American West by showing what people of West African heritage ate before European contact, during The Middle Passage, during slavery in the American South, after Emancipation, and while migrating and settling in other parts of the United States. Miller highlights some of his favorite soul food dishes as well as chocolate’s contribution to the cuisine.

This event also highlights moments where chocolate intersected with the African American experience and features historical insights from Mars Wrigley Chocolate Historian David Borghesani. The event was moderated by Kelly Lynch, Senior Brand Manager, AMERICAN HERITAGE® Chocolate.

The presentation is based on Adrian Miller’s James Beard Award-winning book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.

Books by Adrian Miller

Soul Food

The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time
This book won the James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference in 2014.

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet

The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas
This book was published on President’s Day 2017. It was a finalist for a 2018 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction,” and the 2018 Colorado Book Award for History.

Black Smoke

African Americans and the United States of Barbecue
In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today.