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Portis Kountry Kitchen breaks down the history of soul food

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Posted at 6:12 AM, Feb 16, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Soul food consist of a diverse use of ingredients that have been passed down from generation to generation.

According to Portis Kountry Kitchen (PKK), the origins of soul food date back to the Transatlantic slave trade. Enslaved African people were given small food rations which were low in quality and nutritional value.

“The African slaves that were given scraps to eat. Edible but not used in the house. So, they had to make what they were given palatable,” Joseph Stith, one of the co-owners of PKK, said.

Joseph, who runs the restaurant alongside his wife Katina, said soul food takes its origins mostly from Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, a group of states known as the Deep South.

At PKK, one of their daily menu items is fried chicken, pork chops smothered in gravy, stuffed peppers, and beef tips over rice.

“Rice originally wasn’t something that wasn’t indigenous to North America; it actually came over during the slave trade," Joseph said. "As a form of food that was carbohydrates, high in energy to give as a filler among the dishes that the slaves ate."

Joseph said as far as southern cooking goes, beef was a food for folks living in the Midwest. Pork was for those living in the southeastern states.

“Being that pork was a southern staple. As people in the Midwest are famous for steak, the pork chop was king in the south," he said. "So, frying it is just a quick way of cooking it."

According to Discover.Texarealfoods.com, traditional southern food recipes typically call for a lot of sugar, salt and fat. This was to feed large groups of people with limited resources.

“Back before refrigeration, things had to be preserved. Part of meat preservation was to pack it in salt or sugar or a combination of both and also smoke it,” Joseph said.

And customers cannot forget about the dessert.

“We have banana pudding, peach cobbler, triple chocolate cake. We have pecan pie (and) apple pie,” Katina Stith said.

She said out of all the desserts, the one she remembers learning from her great aunt that brought a smile to her face is the peach cobbler.

“Our desserts - all of our foods - really do come from our heart,” Katina said.

The recipes and techniques have been molded throughout time into the dishes that bring families together at the dinner table.

“It’s that moment that we are just in peace,” Katina said.

PKK is located at 615 N. Upper Broadway St., Suite B101, and is open from Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.