Food and nostalgia are so intertwined, and like most relationships, their connection entails a fair share of comforts and complications. I remember summers on my grandparents’ farm, eating my fill of fried chicken and kolaches. Once made with the fruits the farm could produce, by my childhood, the Czech pastries had grown to include the convenience of bright red, cherry pie filling, glistening with corn syrup. That same corn syrup fueled the industrial agriculture systems that wiped out many a family farm in their region, wiped out crop varieties and replaced manpower with hulking machines.
Food nostalgia is complicated, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the richness of our history. We can glean and adapt and cherish something new that feels old at the same time. This is why I was drawn to the book Soul Food Love.
The Cookbook: Soul Food Love
In Soul Food Love, a mother-daughter duo reclaims and redefines soul food by mining the traditions of four generations of black women and creating 80 healthy recipes to help everyone live longer and stronger.
Novelist Alice Randall and her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, worked together to overhaul the foods they love to cook and eat. They’ve updated the recipes and traditions handed down by their mothers and grandmothers into easy, affordable, and healthy—but still delicious—dishes.
What I love even more about their cookbook is the notion of preservation and attribution. We are living in a time when the Black Community is fighting and begging for true equality, when Native Americans are standing their ground for their ground, when women are marching to be heard, when immigrants are begging to be acknowledged for their positive contributions. What makes America great is this patchwork fabric. Through food and traditions, we can begin to understand the many hands at play in our history, the hands we once tethered and dismissed.
In honor of Black History Month, this is my own humble nod of gratitude for the history the black community built and enriched. This is my own nod of gratitude toward the immigrants, who like my grandmother’s family came to America and worked harder than anyone, planting their traditions into American soils. It’s a nod to those who were here long before any of us, who valued the many resources this beautiful chunk of land had to offer.
I made this meal as part of our stay at the Beaverdam Cabin, the rustic kitchen and substantial stone hearth providing the perfect backdrop for cooking for the sake of cooking, spending time together, toasting wine and conversing- for creating new nostalgia.
Spicy Pepper Roasted Chicken
Adapted from the book Soul Food Love by Alice Randall & Caroline Randall Williams
About this Recipe: This chicken packs just enough spice for those who like some heat. The original recipe is for the chicken only, but I added vegetables to make it a full meal. This recipe is the backbone of my Cabin Menu for Two, so you can turn the leftovers into another lunch and dinner option.
For the Chicken
2 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
1⁄3 cup organic avocado oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
pink Himalaya sea salt
1 (3 to 4 lb) chicken (free-range/organic)
For the Roasted Vegetables
1/2 a small purple cabbage, chopped thick
1 red onion, sliced thick
1-2 sweet potatoes, sliced
1-2 potatoes, sliced
1 bunch of radishes, sliced
1 heart of celery, sliced plus any greens
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional) or broth or water
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Mix the cayenne, avocado oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
Remove the giblets, neck, and liver packet—anything stuffed in the interior of the chicken (save for your 4-legged best friend).
Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry. Put the chicken in a deep baking dish. Season it generously with salt and pepper inside and out. Starting at the neck of the chicken, and making sure to break no more of the skin than you have to, rub the oil mixture onto the chicken flesh, including the legs. The whole chicken should appear reddish.
Add the vegetables to the baking dish. Drizzle with avocado oil. Add the liquid (wine or broth or water). Place in the preheated oven.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes to crisp the skin, then turn the heat down to 400°F. Continue to roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. The juices should run clear and colorless when you pierce a thigh. This can take another 25 to 40 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.