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'Soul food' subject of history lesson at Charles Town church

February 25, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - During the country's slave era, black servants often used waste meat from plantation homes in an attempt to "make ends meet," said Harold Stewart.

As a result, meals centering around food like pigs' feet, beef tongue and ham hocks became commonplace and evolved into some of the most sought-after and tastiest of cuisine, according to Stewart, secretary of the Jefferson County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Different versions of the dishes evolved as cooks experimented by adding garlic and other spices, Stewart told a crowd of about 75 people at an NAACP event Sunday at Wainwright Baptist Church to pay tribute to the cuisine.

"That's right," one man called out from the crowd.

The local chapter of the NAACP held its annual soul food-tasting event at the South West Street church and people in the community were invited to feast on the entrees for free.

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Members of local churches prepared the dishes, Stewart said.

The term "soul food" was coined in the 1960s when the word "soul" became synonymous with many aspects of black culture, Stewart said.

Stewart said the type of soul food that developed during the slave era was a testament to the skill of blacks to take an opportunity and make something of it.

Stewart drew parallels on that story with life today, and urged those in attendance to use the power of voting given to them to create change.

Local and national campaigns are heating up, and some local candidates for state and county positions were in attendance at Sunday's event.

Those who came out to the dinner feasted on entrees like pigs' feet, collard greens, sauerkraut, cabbage and potato salad.

How the foods were prepared over the years depended on many variables, said Rohnda Washington, who stood near the serving table as a line of people waited.

The north had its versions, as did the south, Washington said.

Sometimes it was baked, sometimes it was boiled, she said.

Sometimes it was hit with hot sauce.

"Every family has their own tradition," Washington said.

Ardalia Taylor was enjoying the feast with family members, including her two grandsons, Michael and Terrell Turner.

Taylor said she grew up in the Charles Town area but moved away and worked for Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa. She retired from her job and moved back to the area last year.

Taylor, who went by the nickname "Daley," recalled growing up in the area. Her family had its own garden and raised its own pigs and chickens.

Taylor gave Sunday's food good marks.

"And I know it's all noncalorie," Taylor said.

The soul food-tasting event was part of the local NAACP chapter's black history program.

On Saturday, the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society and the Jefferson County NAACP Youth Chapter sponsored a black history forum on two professional boxers from Jefferson County.

Jackie "Kid" Harris and James "Big Jimmy" Taylor talked at the Star Lodge Masonic building on South Lawrence Street about their experiences fighting from the 1940s to the 1960s.

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