How Black Food and Faith Sacredly Intertwine

tray of food
Briona Lamback
October 18, 2023

We gather round tables with bowed heads, embracing each others’ hands and hearts, with words of gratitude. Saying grace isn’t just a habit. For our people, it’s just one example of how food has always intertwined with spirituality – a delicious mix of the sacred and the secular.

Black-eyed peas are sacred ingredients used in many essential dishes across the diaspora. In the US, they show up in Hoppin’ John, a rice and pea pilaf eaten on New Year’s Eve for good luck. In Brazil, Acarajé is a black-eyed pea fitter popularly sold on the streets but also is favored by orisha deities of the Candomblé religion like Ogun.

Soda drinkers may not even realize the sacred implications of their adoration for carbonated cola. Kola nuts are native to West Africa and have historically been used for medicinal healing, as currency, and sworn upon in religious ceremonies.

Many traditional African and diasporic religions embrace the sanctity of our foodstuffs by offering them to communicate with dieties, like Oshun, whose favorites include honey, oranges, coconut, and pumpkin. 

For generations, our people have used food to communicate with ancestors, offering foods they once enjoyed by placing them on altars and other memorials.

Black food has always been sacred. When we embrace our foods as the divine dishes they are, we’re honoring ourselves, Spirit, and those who came before us.

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