*You might not want to watch the upcoming PBS special “Soul Food Junkies” (or read this post) on an empty stomach.
Airing in January as part of the network’s Independent Lens series, the film from director Byron Hurt serves up such satisfying-yet-not-so-heart friendly soul food staples as fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, peach cobbler and more – all while tracing the culinary tradition and relevance of soul food in relation to the African American community.
Hurt was inspired to examine the complex relationship after watching his own father flat out refuse to give up the grease and sugar of his traditional soul food diet when told that his health would seriously deteriorate if he didn’t.
“My father had become ill with pancreatic cancer. My sister, my mother and myself really tried hard to get him to change his eating habits so we could help him extend his life,” Hurt told EURweb during a press conference for the film. “It was very hard for him. In fact, we got into some very tense conversations because I would question him about the food that he was putting on his plate, even after he had become ill.”
Hurt said he could sense that his father’s stubbornness was rooted in something more emotional than just mere defiance.
“I could really tell that there was something really deep about soul food that he just did not want to give up. And I think it was the emotional connection,” he said. “I think it was the memories of his childhood and his past and growing up in the South and soul food being a big part of his life and just not wanting to let it go.
“That was the inspiration for this film, not necessarily a condemnation of soul food en masse, but it’s really an exploration and a journey to have us question what and why we put certain foods into our mouths.”
Below, Hurt talks about his own emotional history with soul food.
“Soul Food Junkies” premieres Monday, Jan. 14 on PBS. Watch a promo below.