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Food and Religion, Mobile Alabama

Cajun Mobile Alabama Grillades and Grits, recipe below
After settling the question with his bacon and cabbage, the next dearest thing to a colored man, in the South, is his religion. I call it a ‘thing,’ because they always speak of getting religion as if they were going to market for it. —William Wells Brown, 1880

African-American religion historically nourished the soul, just as food nourished the body. This is primarily based on the evidence that religious traditions and eating on special occasions became even more established in African-American communities after emancipation. There are many different churches within most African-American communities but the food celebrations remain consistent. These events increased the association between soul and food in black communities. African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century were largely an agricultural group made up of hard-working farmers and farmhands. Thus, working off a heavy breakfast, lunch or dinner was much easier than in the industrial society of the late twentieth century. 

Cajun Mobile Alabama Grillades and Grits Recipe
2 lbs. round steak (or vegan steak substitute) cut into 2-inch strips
2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. ground pepper, divided
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup vegetable oil, divided
2 Cups chopped Vidalia onion
1 Cup chopped green bell pepper
1 Cup chopped celery
1/4 tsp. ground ancho chili pepper
2 Cups canned diced tomatoes
1 tb. Chopped fresh chopped garlic
5 whole bay leaves
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
2 Cups beef stock (or vegetable stock)
1/2 Cup dry red wine or 1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
2 TB. finely chopped, fresh parsley
2 Cups water
11/4 Cups milk (or soy milk)
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup quick-cooking grits
1/4 Cup butter (butter substitute)

Place the meat strips in a bowl. Add 1 tsp. of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the pepper and toss to coat. Add the flour and toss again to evenly coat the meat. In a large stock pot, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the meat, in batches if necessary, and brown evenly on both sides, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the meat to paper towel-lined plates to drain. Add more oil to the pan as needed while browning the meat, making sure to let the oil get hot before adding the meat. Once all the meat has been browned, add the onion, bell pepper and celery to the pot along with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the ancho peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, scrap the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cook until the vegetables are softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, beef (or vegetable stock) wine and chopped garlic. Return the browned meat to the pot and season with the remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the meat is tender. Remove the bay leaves before serving and stir in the parsley. Serve over grits (cook the grits like cream of wheat). Stir in the butter before serving and season with hot sauce if you like. Grillades is also wonderful served with rice.

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