Sylvia Woods - beyond the label, a legacy of dignity and inspiration
Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty says that Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food", allowed people to celebrate and embrace Southern cuisine.
July 20th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Sylvia Woods - beyond the label, a legacy of dignity and inspiration

Editor's Note: Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area. He blogs at Afroculinaria.com and thecookinggene.com. As the originator of the Cooking Gene Project, he seeks to trace his ancestry through food.

Walking down the ambiguous “ethnic” aisle in the local supermarket the other day ago, I was struck by the fact that every other ethnic group seemed to have a label on their cooking supplies but African Americans. I shouldn’t complain – it’s probably in the best interest of culinary political correctness. Then that familiar smiling face greeted me from my favorite seasoning for greens – a youthful, beautiful Sylvia Woods telling me that we didn’t need a label, we just needed to be.

The “Queen of Soul Food,” lent her face and character to a brand built on dignity – from a line of products for the Up South home cook to cookbooks, to a successful family business that is justly the culinary embassy of Harlem. To those of us inspired by her entrepreneurial drive and commitment to family, faith and food, the loss of Mrs. Woods is a time to reflect on the unique gifts this gastronomic ambassador brought to the American table.

Sylvia Woods was a graduate of the tobacco fields and truck patches of Hemingway, South Carolina. Much like family and many others, she and her husband joined the wave North in search of a better life, while maintaining strong links to the family “home place.” Sylvia’s, now an institution of 50 years in the New York scene, made way for a whole host of fabulous soul food restaurants, each giving a taste of home to migrants and their descendants but to tourists from around the world as well.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Kris

    Adriana -Thanks for the comment and fecbdaek. I'm glad you got my post. It's far too easy to invest in a community that's growing as fast the Latino has over the last two decades. I think Latinos recognize a genuine interest in developing our community and just not making inroads to hit the bottom line. I did review your presentation at the NCLR Conference good work! I hope to keep those lessons in mind everyday! Saludos!

    October 15, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Victim Mentality Reigns Supreme

    Um, the REASON you don't see labelling of 'african american' foods is because there is NO SUCH THING. Mexicans have a culture FROM MEXICO. Chinese have culture from CHINA. What is AFRICAN AMERICAN? First of all, NO BLACK PEOPLE BORN HERE HAVE ANY TIES TO AFRICA unless they directly emigrated from here.. those are the TRUE african-americans. Besides, apparently people are too stupid to figure out that Africa is a friggin CONTINENT with dozens of countries and numerous varied cultures and languages. Blacks are americans. END OF STORY. Only a fool would call himself an african american if he is from here.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |