Twenty-One Soul Food Life Hacks


I am officially joining the Life/Food Hack movement.  Some of these may not seem so “hackish,” but if you guys want more hacks—I promise the next bunch will be more hackish.  Hacks usually use common objects and familiar things in uncommon and unfamiliar ways.  They are ways to solve basic dilemmas and problems or make life better—even if you couldn’t put your finger on things that needed a change or improvement.  Enjoy.  IF YOU HAVE your own “Soul Food Hacks,” let me know or respond to this post with your own, and I will try the best ten and document them here on Afroculinaria.

  1. Learn to cut a watermelon the new way—click here
  2. Make your own secret soul food spice. Tips—buy in bulk. Want lower sodium—adjust accordingly and use a salt substitute for part of it.  Call it your “house seasoning” like….ahem….you know….and put it on the kitchen table with pepper to replace iodized salt.
  3. Gullah remedy for rice that has a burnt smell—put a silver spoon in it. (You can thank Sallie Ann Robinson, the Gullah Diva for that J
  4. Twitty method for making good fried fish—a thick piece of potato frying with the fish in each batch takes the burned or dark taste off of it.
  5. Need a use for late okra….cut the caps off the end and presto—you have a free Halloween costume.
  6. Want pepper sauce without the vinegar?  Use rum or vodka instead of vinegar.  Vinegar actually softens the bite.  Alcohol makes it takes hotter.
  7. Vegan? Want that smoked meat taste?  Use a few drops of liquid smoke—carefully.
  8. Too much turkey?  Cut off and roast the breast.  Take the rest—thighs, legs, wings—soak them in a gallon of water with 1 cup of kosher or sea salt, and half a cup of black pepper, sugar, red pepper and poultry seasoning.   Take them out and pat dry.  Smoke or slow grill it over hickory chips.  Freeze after it has come to temperature.  Voila! You’ve got smoked turkey for your greens, beans, soups and stews.
  9. How to perfect “Gramma/Grammy/Nana/M’Dear/’s”  recipe.  Record her on your cell phone without her knowing LOL.  Offer to measure ingredients as she dumps them in and make notes.  If possible, taste the recipe as its made.  Ask a lot of questions and record it.  Make note of any special brands, sources of the food, etc.
  10. Create your own heritage garden: my Mother loved Kentucky wonders and Cherokee purple tomatoes.  Find out what your family’s favorite crops were, make notes, and ask HOW they were cultivated.  When you make your family garden scrapbook, include favorite recipes..make digital and hard copies and pass them around at the next family reunion.
  11. Save the extra potliker—freeze it in ice cube trays and put them in sealable freezer bags. This is the mother stock for our sauces.  Makes a great broth for sipping when you are sick.
  12. Us e the parboiling water as a base for your bbq mop.

  13. Give your kids a downhome connection—next time you visit “Down South/The Country/Down Home” take them to the farmers markets, neighbors, specialty stores—buy bbq sauces, jams, jellies, mixes, etc. that speak to your family’s likes and tastes—later on when they go to school, get married or have other life events—you can make a similar basket.  In order to pass traditions on—we have to make time for them.
  14. Fried chicken and waffles?—Slice up cold fried chicken into thin little bits and add to your favorite waffle batter.  Enjoy with cream gravy—THE ONLY RIGHT WAY TO DO CHICKEN AND WAFFLES SINCE THEY WERE INVENTED ON SOUTHERN PLANTATIONS BY OUR ANCESTORS!!! Thank you…

    Fried Chicken from Georgia made on the Open Hearth
    Fried Chicken from Georgia made on the Open Hearth
  15. Don’t wait on ceremony, affix jars to a wooden board affixed to a wall.  Place them on a wall facing a sunny window and grow your favorite herbs and small pepper plants—make sure they are spaced well and use a little fertilizer and moisture control mixed soil in each jar.  Growing your food can’t wait.  Cinder blocks, old tires—all that stuff makes great, cheap and reliable quick garden container space.
  16. Want to get your kid interested in a subject they don’t like?  Food preparation and getting food to the table—gardening, shopping, fishing, sharing– takes a number of different skills.  When you have the time—use these moments to go over math, reading and language skills.  Social skills are enhanced when we learn how to interact in regular and consistent ways.  Financial and economic principles and history and social science and learning about other cultures can also be enhanced and developed when we cook at home or have eating experiences outside the house.
  17. Don’t waste sweet potato, black eyed and other cowpea leaves,  and the like—they are edible—healthy, nutritious greens—pick them randomly and add to spinach, collards, etc. or just grab a bunch and saute them on their own!
  18. Do not let all that wonderful watermelon rind go to waste—start pickling now!
  19. Peach fuzz make you itch—give them a quick bath in boiling hot water—the fuzz will come right off before you peel  them!
  20. Want a nice coating on your fried chicken—use pancake mix or cornstarch instead of just plain flour.
  21. Use vanilla sugar in your candied yams, peach cobbler, apple crisp, berries and dumplings and the like.  Get a huge sealable dry jar, stick those precious barely crushed vanilla pods in there—and you can even add a stick or two of cinnamon…people will go nuts


WANT  MORE?  Write in and let me know!


8 comments on “Twenty One Soul Food “Life Hacks”

  1. So may great tips here! Thank you. I liked 1, 8, 11…all of them!


  2. Tony Canzoneri

    Now I’m hungry


  3. Hello Michael, Love your blog! Just thought you could add to the list: eat your weeds rather than tossing them. Of course this requires learning one’s weeds, so plant pests become wonderful culinary gifts. A helpful book on this topic (which I happen to be the author of) is called Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook. I do believe you have a copy?
    Thanks again for your wonderful work!!


  4. Take greens that you aren’t going to eat, from carrots, say, when you just aren’t going to get them cooked, or beets, or chard, again when you just aren’t going to get them cooked and you know it, onion skins, tops, carrots or celery that gets older and softer than you want, and put them in a big bag in the freezer. If you aren’t going to cook your giblets, put them in, too, along with what’s left of the roasted chicken after a few days, or the bone from a pork shoulder after a braising.

    When the bag gets full, boil it for stock. You make stock more often with less work and some of what they call your kitchen waste stream is redirected into savory goodness.


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