AADS 208W: A Virtual Soul Food Feast

Soul Food as Super Foods

Alice Randall (African American Diaspora Studies) and a group of fourteen Vanderbilt undergraduate students

Soul Feast

A Virtual Soul Food Feast:

Classroom Table Community

Soul Foods as Super Foods is a virtual soul food feast developed by Vanderbilt undergraduate studies and Professor Alice Randall in conjunction with the course Soul Food, as text, in text (AADS 208W).

“The Cyber Soul Food Feast is a potluck. You are cordially invited to add something to our table by posting on our tumblr or using the hashtag #supersoulfoodfeast on twitter.”

About the project:

Soul Food, as text, in text (AADS 208W) explores African-American foodways in aesthetic, historical, literary, and narrative context. One of the themes of the course is that acknowledged or unacknowledged soul food often balances an interest in preserving traditional foodways against ongoing pressures (economic, political and other) to evolve into (more or less nutritious) new foodways. AADS 208 as it exists engages the problem that Soul Food both sustains and endangers African American communities. I would like a Curb grant that will allow students to explore ways in which a website might be used to catalyze rapid evolution that aggressively supports healthy eating while preserving and increasing connections to traditional African-American foodways.

The grant supports the design of a “virtual table” that connects classroom to community and scholarship to bellies. The culmination of the project will be a “virtual soul food feast” that inspires those who engage it to be both more aware of African-American foodways and more aware of the relationship between food and good health. Determining the content and shape of this virtual feast will be a focus of the semester. The virtual feast decided upon, should this project be funded, will be served in cyberspace in the first week of December and maintained on the web to inspire diners through May of 2013.

Intersections of technology and social justice, aesthetics and cultural competence, health and culinarity will be explored and navigated to the purpose of sustaining healthier and tastier lives in all communities– with a particular emphasis on the African-American community being ravaged by the American obesity epidemic.

From the students behind Soul Foods as Superfoods: “We are a group of fourteen undergraduates studying at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Our hope: to improve the health of the nation by setting a new table with old foods.Over the past few months, we have enjoyed the privilege of taking the African American and Diaspora Studies course Soul Food, In Text, as Text with Professor Alice Randall. Hailing from nine states and two countries, we entered the course with varied backgrounds in Soul Food and no background at all. Over the course of the semester, each of us developed a 30+ page portfolio engaging aspects of African American Foodways. Together, we have savored and interrogated  22 cookbooks written by outstanding African American authors/chefs, including Edna Lewis, Maya Angelou, and Rufus Estes. By examining these cookbooks as cultural artifacts, we have been able to investigate the evolution of African American Foodways in the United States. In response to the obesity epidemic ravaging America, our class felt inspired to serve some of what we’ve learned to the public. We have embraced the challenge of identifying healthy recipes which return to the farm roots of Soul Food cooking. We are declaring 10 foods to be Super Soul Foods. The health and well being of our nation may depend on putting these food stuffs back at the center of our table. It started in a classroom but it needs to end in your kitchen. Join our Feast.”

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