Soul Food That’s Good For the Body, Too

A candid interview on healthy soul food cooking and business habits, with authors and food activists Alice Randall and Caroline Randall-Williams.

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Dynamic mother-daughter duo, authors and professors Alice Randall and Caroline Randall-Williams, have taken the food industry by storm with their healthy and innovative spin on traditional soul food and their debut cookbook, Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family.

Through storytelling, a history lesson, and delectable recipes, these women invite you to pull up a seat to their kitchen table as they enlighten you on wellness, tradition, business, and the spirit of family.

BlackEnterprise.com: How did the idea of coming together for a healthy soul food cookbook come about?
Randall: The cookbook started when I woke up one morning and realized I weighed 250 pounds and needed to start on a diet. I wanted to reshape my life so my daughter, who is an excellent home cook, started sharing recipes from her kitchen because she felt my diet was about deprivation and I was losing some of the family history, the soul food, that I loved through the process of reinvention.

Caroline began sharing her recipes, which became love letters that she wrote to me. For the first part of the book we wanted to write a letter to the four mothers before us and their kitchens, and love letters to the future and our health, through these recipes.

What inspired you to include the history of the recipes with the recipes in Soul Food Love?
Randall: The history is how we got where we are. We don’t just adapt the recipes. Caroline started to look through her Grandma’s recipes and she found the healthy food ways in our black past that we had forgotten.

Randall-Williams: You tell people you have a healthy soul food cookbook and that sometimes takes some explaining. To be able to write the story of where these recipes came from helps to remind people that these healthy recipes are also a part of our history. To put them in context and to share the memories that come up around them felt really important to us.

What significant changes have been made to the traditional southern recipes in order to ensure that the meals in your cookbook take heed to health?
Randall-Williams: One of my jobs was to revise recipes, and one of my jobs was to remix recipes. For example: I have a new take on potato salad. I have a roasted sweet potato, pomegranate and spicy pepper salad that is full of heat and uses the classic soul food staple sweet potato. It’s delicious and good for you.

Randall: She has wonderful chicken salad but instead of using mayonnaise, she uses non-fat Greek yogurt and it’s just fantastic.

When people consider their soul food they usually like it how they like it. What would you say to those who’d argue that including healthy may mean excluding flavor and taste?
Randall-Williams: One of the most important backbones of my cookbook, and of soul food cooking, is knowing how to enjoy heat. I love a hot pepper—cayenne, paprika. I think spices are so underutilized these days and they are such an important part of where our cooking began. When we say ‘soul food,’ we have to ask ourselves what we really mean. When I say ‘soul food’ I mean food that tastes good, is good for me, and shows the people around me that I love them and want them to live and live well.

Randall: You can definitely get the richness and flavors in there without all the calories.

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