Big Mouth

Soul Food

More stories from Maggie Cipriano

On Hawai’i Time
December 3, 2018

This warm, sunshiney weather is hinting at summer, which is right around the corner. It is the perfect weather for fresh fruit and veggies, and barbeques with friends and family.

While that is probably what I should have eaten this weekend, it is most definitely not. What I had was much more delicious, greasy and wonderful.

I attended the Black Male Empowerment (BME) Soul Food Dinner, which was a way for the BME to raise money so they are able to head to the United Kingdom for a research immersion trip.

Tickets at student price were $12 and faculty, staff and community members were $25. $12 for this massive feast was a steal. Imagine a bottomless plate of spectacular soul food, for the price of a regular, nothing-special type of cheeseburger and fries.

The food was all-you-can-eat buffet style, but with fancy plates. At the buffet there were pans of homemade mac and cheese, rib tips, pasta salad, cranberry sauce, collard greens and vats of jerk chicken.

I began my meal with the collard greens, because they seemed the healthiest (I am sure they were not healthy, they tasted too good.) I then moved onto the mac and cheese.

This mac and cheese was the most unbelievably flavorful and creamy mac and cheese that I have ever eaten. It was full of chunks of melted cheddar, and topped with the savory burnt bits of cheese that everyone tries to sneakily scrape from the top and sides of the pan, waving the white flag at being polite.

Finally, the king of the meal, the one the people were there for: erk chicken. While grabbing a piece of chicken from the pan, pieces kept falling off the bone. My plate ended up having a heaping pile of chicken so tender that it literally fell off the bone.

Of course, being soaked in jerk seasoning, this chicken had a kick. It was perfectly spicy, it was  not too little, not too much. The meat was so juicy that it left a pool of spice behind that I let my greens soak in, making them even more delicious.

The few rib tips that I had were cooked to perfection. They were smokey and flavorful smothered in barbecue sauce — little morsels of goodness as poppable as popcorn, just way better.

On the fancy set tables above the pressed white tablecloths, there sat three chilled pitchers: water, grape Kool-Aid and sweet tea. The perfect palate cleansers to a heavy, spicy meal.

I ended the meal with an oversized slice of custard pie. With a graham cracker crust made of magic, and a fluffy custard center (which was equally as magical), I was in dessert heaven. Every bite as exciting as the next, I did not even realize that the pie was gone, a sad ending.

I cannot really describe the magnitude of how amazing this meal was. I lived in St. Louis, traveled to the south and have eaten meals prepared by sweet grandmothers who cook with nothing but love; yet this was the best soul food I have ever had the pleasure of eating.