"I want grease in my gravy and fatback in my greens"--Doug McCloud

There is a class divide among some blacks in this country that if it weren't for the gravity of the split would otherwise be comical. Over a year ago I heard one of my friends speak of poor people's food in reference to soul specialties like collard greens, red beans & rice, candied yams and a host of other foods that were once staples in black households.

Poor people's food? Have we come that far or sunk that low? I don't consider myself anyone special, but I am not impoverished, yet, I enjoy a bowl of brown-beans with ham-hocks and biscuits. I think it is good eating and never give a second thought to any class distinctions tied to eating a good meal.

Making real gravy starts with what's left in the frying pan--a little grease. A little grease, cold water and some flour gets the process started. Depend on the dish gravy can be from sausage dregs or ham for red-eye gravy. The point is that it makes for delightful and delicious cooking and is not class related.

Apparently, there is a class of blacks that feel they have advanced beyond eating traditional foods without understanding that people eating "poor people" foods come from all socio economic backgrounds ranging from billionaires to soup kitchen denizens. It also implies that "poor people" food is the scope of their dietary spectrum when nothing could be further from the truth.

Because of stereotypes, there are blacks that studiously avoid eating certain foods in public like fried chicken, barbecue and watermelon. To pigeon hole blacks with traditional African-American cuisine tastes as eating "poor people" food reflects a poor understanding of racial dynamics in the United States as well as in the black community at large.

Like any other ethic group, blacks have far ranging tastes when it comes to food and to imply that traditional staples like beans and cornbread, fatback and greens or red beans and rice fall into a "poor people's" food group reveals a faux elitist viewpoint based on sand. Chris Rock did a great job of describing the difference between rich and wealthy saying that when Shaquille O'Neil played basket ball for The Lakers he was rich. However, he went on to explain that the man that paid Shaq and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers team was wealthy.

Unfortunately, there are many among the black upper crust making $400k annually and up who believe they have arrived. My question is--where? They still have to leave their ivory towers and come down among the common folks where reality is no so friendly and "poor people's" food is consumed regularly by all.

"I was raised up on Muddy Waters, cornbread, collard greens . . ."--ZZ Hill, I"m a Blues Man

I guess that I was incensed that anyone would refer to some of my favorite dishes as "poor people's food. I blame it on the pseudo nouveau riche not knowing who they are, where they came from, where they are going and more importantly, who they will meet along the way. Caviar and champagne are just that--caviar and champagne and need no further descriptors. I like one and despise the other, but I'm sure no one gives a hairy rat's ass about my likes and dislikes.

My entire purposes in this post is to expose a warped mode of thinking in the black community among a phony bourgeois that is blind to the error of its ways.

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Comment by Lorasaur on September 24, 2013 at 10:33am

Dr. Mcdougall's theme is that the rich foods - animal food, meat and eggs and milk, and the high-sugar foods, were historically more difficult to obtain.  People subsisted mostly on the starchy staple foods they grew, roots dug out of the ground, etc. But people are set up to crave the "rich" foods, so when people get more money, they eat more of them, and it harms their health and makes them fat. 

The Mcdougall-type diet, the starch-based lowfat low-sugar vegan diet, is wildly unpopular - just because people looove those rich foods.  Your potatoes or my cassava do not sit in the refrigerator communicating with us by telepathic beeps saying "Eat me, eat me!!!", as cookies, pizza, potato chips etc. do.

Even the vegans I've met don't eat a starch-based lowfat low-sugar diet.  The raw vegans eat sweet fruit, coconut oil, nuts. 

Comment by Idaho Spud on September 24, 2013 at 8:23am

Yes Laura.  I know what you're saying about money being too much of a goal.  

That reminds me of something that always amazes me.  That's when I hear about rich people paying $100 (or several hundred) for a meal.

Comment by Lorasaur on September 24, 2013 at 8:02am

A "poor people's food" restaurant could be come popular if it had poor people's prices!

Definitely. And junk food is the de facto poor people's food in the USA - lots of calories for less money. 

What I was trying to say is that the image of being the food of poor people, is probably never going to have a widespread appeal.  Having money is too much a goal of too many, for that to happen. 

Comment by Idaho Spud on September 24, 2013 at 7:54am

A "poor people's food" restaurant could be come popular if it had poor people's prices!

Comment by Lorasaur on September 24, 2013 at 7:04am

However, I don't think a restaurant selling "poor people's food" is ever going to be popular.

Comment by Lorasaur on September 24, 2013 at 5:37am

No African restaurants, even Ethiopian, in Ithaca.  I heard that some African food - probably East Africa - is Indian influenced, and Indian food is popular.  I haven't eaten at restaurants for 10 years bc of allergies - but it seems like it would be interesting food. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on September 23, 2013 at 9:15pm
Laura -- That's damn good question. I don't have any idea.
Comment by Lorasaur on September 23, 2013 at 7:14am

wonder why there aren't more African restaurants around.  There are Indian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai restaurants around - why not more African restaurants? 

Perhaps the romanticizing of Africa could be capitalized on, this way.

The kind of food allergies I have aren't obvious, by the way.  People can have them without knowing it.  For example, many people who have celiac disease would be much healthier without gluten in their diets, but they don't notice anything bad happening when they eat gluten.  But after they quit eating gluten, they get sick if they accidentally get "glutened".  It's not a classical food allergy, instead it makes them feel groggy and sick and often gives them diarrhea for several days.  People can also have such non-classical food allergies to foods that don't have gluten, and have negative consequences, without knowing that they're allergic to the food.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on September 22, 2013 at 10:34pm
Laura--sorry about yor allergies. I can eat almost anything (except chitterlingss) but after that-- anything.
Comment by Lorasaur on September 21, 2013 at 11:03am

I eat a lowfat vegan starch-based diet.  Dr. Mcdougall advocates this diet and refers to it as poor people's food or peasant food - because historically, peasants have eaten primarily starchy staple foods.  Like van Gogh's Potato Eaters for example, or Chinese peasants who live mostly on rice. 

What you are referring to as poor people's food is actually more affluent than that. 

I like the idea of eating poor people's food - living on "just food", the everyday roots etc., not some heavily advertised Product.

A lot of white people feel embarrassed by the stereotypes, like we are going to step on black people's toes accidentally.  For example, there's a good smell spreading in the supermarket, it smells like fried chicken, is it safe to say "mmm, that smells good" to a black person standing nearby, or will they become defensive because of the stereotype?  I wonder if a black person who wants a watermelon sometimes tries to hide it in the shopping cart :)  There is a lot of stuff that is almost comical around race - things that don't make any sense on a "rational" level.  Chinese people make their ethnic cuisine into restaurants - they commercialize it and sell it, rather than being embarrassed about it. 

A lot of the food I eat is actually traditional foods from Latin America or Africa - they aren't an AA stereotype, but usually the people who buy them, immigrated from those countries and they miss the foods they grew up with.  I eat them because I developed allergies to almost all the normal foods like potatoes, rice, beans, etc. 



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