There were two vans, twenty-two students, and one goal this past Sunday. We needed to arrive at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) by 4pm for its annual Soul Food Dinner. Those who attended the event last year, made sure they had worked up an appetite. Those who were newbies were advised to do the same.
According to SNHU alum (’12) and dinner co-founder Aquila Kentish, the Soul Food Dinner was created to “support Black History Month and help the SNHU campus relate to something that is true to us.” The annual meal (feast may be a more appropriate word) is planned and prepared by students in the Culinary Arts program and the Beloved Community student organization. Cornbread, greens, yams, macaroni and cheese, and fried chicken are just a few of the dishes that were offered. Plates were piled to amazing heights in response to the reality that a meal of this magnitude is not a common occurrence. An assortment of deserts like red velvet cake and ice cream provided a nice ending.
The Multicultural Center has been taking students to the Soul Food Dinner since its inception in 2010; it continues to be a popular event each year. Students enjoy participating in opportunities to get off campus, meet new people, celebrate black history and eat good food. Sophomore Shatiaka Allen underscored this: “It was an exceptional experience that I got to share with the members of my school and the SNHU Beloved Community. I was able to see how they celebrate Black History Month and where we can build from with our own celebration!”
What is soul food? The term became popular in the 1960s with the rise of the civil rights movement. It has its roots in slavery, when African Americans had to make do with whatever food was available to them. More often times than not, the slaves were given the most undesirable part of the meal, the leftovers from the house. Pairing this with their own home-grown vegetables, the first soul food dishes were invented. Even when slavery was abolished, most African Americans lived in poverty, so recipes continued to make use of cheaper ingredients.
Although each year the list of attendees may change, the conversation on the ride home always remains the same. We are waiting to hear back from SNHU so that we can mark our calendars for next year’s Dinner!