Tasting History:  Celebrating the Diverse Culinary Traditions of the Black Community

Filed Under: Black / African American, Multicultural, Food & Beverage, Grocery, Restaurants & Food Service


Ashleigh Williams

Senior Director, Online Qualitative Research

Jaelynn Theobalds

Associate, Communities & Panels

Discovering the Diversity of Cuisine Among Subcultures Within the Black Community

The Black community in the United States encompasses a beautiful array of subcultures. In our ebook, More than Meets the Eye: The Many Shades of Black Identity, we identify and outline some of these subcultures. Across these diverse identities, food and the connection to food remain important. Preparing food or sharing a meal presents opportunities to form deeper bonds with family and friends, but it is also an avenue by which the various subcultures can stay connected to their own unique culture. Though many people are familiar with the connection of “soul food” to the Black community, there are other culturally rich food traditions among this community that exist. As we’ve previously expressed, the Black community is not monolithic. Whether it’s individuals who are descendants of enslaved people from North America, those of Caribbean and Latin American descent, first-generation Americans with parents from Africa, or those born in Africa themselves, the diversity within the Black community is vast, including the types of foods they consume. Yet, despite the varying traditional family recipes, the entire community shares in some common values such as joy, faith, and compassion. Their food tables represent a beautiful tapestry of cultural perspectives that shape who they are today.

The Essential Role of Food and Hospitality

One of the most expressive ways we’ve found that the Black community shares their values of community and togetherness is through food. Extending hospitality by cooking for someone or bonding over shared meals is a profound act of compassion that allows both the sharing and exchanging of cultures. Many have inherited the art of cooking from their elders, learning to perfect dishes through taste and intuition rather than following written recipes.

Through this cultural immersion, we’ve also discovered the creative ways in which they blend their cultural dishes into American traditions, enriching the American culinary landscape with diverse flavors. Food, for the Black community, is not just about sustenance; it’s a means to bond, to remember their home countries, and to share their rich culinary heritage with their children and friends outside of their culture.

The Quest for Authentic Ingredients

Finding the right ingredients is essential to bringing to life the authenticity of cultural dishes they know and love. While some ingredients are easily accessible due to the commonality of certain subcultures within the US, others can be harder to find, especially in smaller towns. This often leads members of the Black community on journeys to larger, more diverse communities in an effort to find what they need or to pay a premium for these ingredients to be shipped to them.

Our Reflection As we continue to share stories about the Black community and their experiences, we invite you to join C+R and our CultureBeat team in celebrating the rich cultural tapestry that food weaves within the Black community, reminding us of the power of culinary traditions that bring us together, bridging cultures and fostering understanding.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for you and your business:

  • Recognize Black Diversity: It’s important to recognize the diversity of customs, values, and traditions in the Black community. Avoid only showing the more well-known traditions we associate with the Black community, and consider showing new traditions to help bring a voice to those with unique cultural perspectives.
  • Invite Them to Your Table: Black consumers honor the celebration of joy despite hardship, and they openly accept and welcome anyone willing to join them at the table. However, sometimes they don’t always feel welcome outside the comfort of their own home/table. Show Black consumers that they are appreciated and accepted by inviting them to sit with you and by promoting awareness, education and exposure to other Black cultures. Show appreciation for their support of your brands by showing representation in your communications and taking their wants and needs into consideration in all aspects of your business.
  • Connect with Their Universal Truths: Highlight the values they cherish in your marketing efforts:  joy, compassion, resilience, and togetherness. Spotlight the ways they express their cultural heritage through preparing and sharing traditional dishes.  These themes are found to be universal truths regardless of what subcultural group they identify with.

As Black History Month unfolds, let’s embrace the diversity that strengthens our collective cultures and celebrate the role of food in connecting the Black community to its heritage, its families, and each other.

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