Adrian Miller has a lot on his plate these days. The lawyer-turned-politico is running Stephen Ludwig's re-election bid for University of Colorado regent, and he's also finishing up a book for the University of North Carolina Press called Flavor: Soul Food History by the Plateful. In it, the Denver native debunks some conventional wisdom on the "cooks, cuisine, culture" of soul food. "I'm going to say things people will be surprised to hear and really don't want to hear," Miller admits.
See also: - Colin Mallet brings Southern cooking to northwest Denver - Boney's Smokehouse gives a Southern tweak to Bahamian barbecue recipes- Stephen Ludwig is paying for his position in shoe leather -- or at least tire treads
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For starters, soul food isn't necessarily unhealthy. And one of the reasons for that is the meats -- pig's feet, pig's intestines (chitlins) -- and fats we associate with soul food "weren't always poor people's food," he says. "Sometimes the rich ate them, too." Slaves didn't have regular access to those kinds of ingredients; instead, they mostly ate vegetables that were in season. Meanwhile, chitlins were favored by European royalty and aristocrats; Henry VIII even loved a type of sweet-potato pie. Much of what is considered soul food actually falls under the category of Southern food, Miller explains.
And while Denver is short on true soul-food joints, it's suddenly rich in Southern restaurants. Sassafras American Eatery, which Gretchen Kurtz reviews this week, opened four months ago in northwest Denver, not far from where Jezebel's is slated to open in the former home of Squeaky Bean. And last month saw the debut of both Restaurant Fourteen Seventy-Two, which offers "lowcountry dining," and Big Easy Creole Kitchen, a New Orleans-themed spot.
While none of these are soul-food restaurants, there's definitely overlap between soul food and Southern cooking. In his book, Miller credits food writer Damon Lee Fowler with describing the difference between soul food and Southern food this way: "All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares." One of the differences? Chitlins.