Agriculture is a big part of our everyday lives! As I sit here writing this, I can’t think of a single thing that agriculture does not play a part in. Of course, a major agricultural contribution to our society is the production of various foods like meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and alcohol (for those of us old enough to enjoy it anyway). As a person who loves to cook and bake, learning about food and where it comes from is a big part of my life.
I recently visited the great state of Tennessee, and my experiences brought about a whole new definition of ‘soul food’. People in the South don’t just cook to feed their bodies, they cook to feed their heart and soul. Everything is prepared with relatively locally sourced ingredients and is prepared with careful attention. This creates a result that is unlike any other food experience I have ever had. From sweet, sugary, authentic pralines to the classic southern biscuits and gravy, nothing disappointed. Which made me question, what really makes southern cooking so good?
The answer didn’t come to me until we were 5 hours into our rural farm tour. Our guide said, “food has a soul and the way it is produced affects its soul. There’s just something extra good about knowing where your food comes from.” This really got me thinking about how food is produced today. It is easy to buy everything from your local Walmart, but it’s not an uncommon theme for a person to believe their homegrown products taste better.
You could argue that homegrown foods are fresher, more responsibly grown, or even have richer nutrients. Essentially though, it all comes down to consumer preference. But, if you ask me, I will have to say these homegrown foods just have a richer soul due to the love put in by the producer, the packer, and even down to the consumer who prepares the meal. To take these ingredients and cook them with that extra care is really what will put your dish over the top.
Food is known to be a powerful ingredient in bringing people together. Why not kick it up a notch and create a dish that not only fuels your body, but feeds your soul as well? Tennessee may have opened my eyes to this realization, but I also acknowledge that soul food does not only occur in the South! Maybe your soul food is your great grandma’s pumpkin pie or the five-dollar Little Caesars pizza that your dad brought home every Friday when you were a kid. There is no right or wrong answer, but I hope you all get a chance to cook (and eat) good food that feeds your soul!
P.S. If this post spoke to you and you are a student at the University of Wyoming, consider joining the Food Science Club!