A DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR

SOU L
FOOD
LO V E
Alice Randall & Caroline Randall Williams

Clarkson Potter/Publishers
New York
SoulFoodLove.com

Introduction
In May 2012, bestselling author Alice Randall penned an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Black Women and Fat,”
chronicling her quest to be “the last fat black woman” in her family. She turned to her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, for help. Together they overhauled the way they cook and eat, translating recipes and traditions handed down by
generations of black women into easy, affordable, and healthful—yet still indulgent—dishes.

Soul Food Love relates the authors’ fascinating family history (which mirrors that of much of black America in the
twentieth century), explores the often-fraught relationship African American women have had with food, and forges
a powerful new way forward that honors their cultural and culinary heritage. This is what a strong black kitchen can
look like in the twenty-first century.

Many of the issues addressed in Soul Food Love—historical, nutritional, and political—are faced by black families across
America. These are issues that demand to be addressed and deserve to be discussed by families, community groups,
and people of all ages. We have created this discussion guide as a way to help you start the conversation.

These questions are just the beginning. We hope you are able to prepare a meal, gather together, and begin talking
about your relationship to your food and your history.

For Discussion
1. Every family has its own food culture. What dish best captures the spirit of your family? What dish do
you think most captured the spirit of the Randall-Williams family?
2. Each of the women featured in Soul Food Love—Dear, Grandma, Nana, and Mama—faced obstacles
to becoming a great home cook. Dear lived in the countryside when it was a dangerous place for black
people; Grandma had the pressure of putting thousands of family meals on the table with a limited budget;
Nana’s house welcomed an unending stream of civil rights activists; and Mama juggled a life as a writer and
professor along with responsibilities as a single mother. Discuss the strategies each of these women used
to overcome the obstacles they encountered. Which of the women succumbed to the obstacles? Which of
them triumphed?
3. What is the biggest obstacle you experience getting daily meals on the table? What was the biggest
obstacle your mother faced? Your grandmother? What strategies did your foremothers use to overcome
their obstacles? Were some challenges too big to overcome?
4. If you could be a guest at a dinner hosted by Dear, Grandma, Nana, or Mama, who would you choose?
Why?
5. If you could spend an afternoon cooking with Dear, Grandma, Nana, or Mama, who would you choose
to join in the kitchen? Why?

6. Dear self-medicates with sugar. Are there any foods that you use to try to relieve anxiety? To lift you from
depression?
7. Grandma’s favorite childhood snack was the very healthy sardines and crackers. What’s the healthiest
snack you love and serve at home?
8. Nana was frequently called upon to entertain a crowd at the last minute. She put her blender and food
processor to hard use whirling up dips. What’s your go-to, last-minute a-crowd-is-coming recipe?
9. In the process of struggling with her weight, Mama went from cooking trifle to serving jugged pear that
was a kind of remix of the trifle, which she loved even more. Have you ever adapted a recipe to be healthier
and ended up liking the adapted version more?
10. Peanuts and sweet potatoes are grocery staples that Caroline associates with some of the healthier roots
of her family food tree. What are some of the foodstuffs that are in your family history that have almost
been forgotten but deserve to be back on the menu?
11. If you could add only one recipe from Soul Food Love to your weekly dinner menu, what would it be?
12. Mama writes about Diddy Wah Diddy, a mythic land with perfect food. What would be on the menu in
your food utopia?
13. Who are the best cooks in your family? Are all of them women? Are any, like Papa, men?
14. What is the specialty of your house, your go-to home-cooked dinner?

15. What dish do you most associate with your family feast?
16. What’s the oldest dish in your family kitchen tree? Do you have any recipes in your family that date back
to the nineteenth century?
17. Do you have any secret family recipes that are only shared within the family?
18. If you could own only one cookbook (not including Soul Food Love), what would it be?
19. Some book clubs have their own food culture. Does your book club have a signature recipe? Are there
any set expectations of what will be served at a book club meeting? Is it important that book club food be
homemade? Abundant? Healthy? Luxurious? Adventurous?
20. Is there an acknowledged best cook in your book club? Who is it?

Activities
• Draw your own family kitchen tree.
• Interview your oldest living relative who is capable of giving an interview about what they ate as a child
and how it compares to what they eat now. Video the interview and share it at book club.
• Cook a book club feast using Soul Food Love recipes.
• Sister to Sister Cooking Workshop: identify a working mother who often feeds her children fast food
dinners. Make, freeze, and deliver one of the soups for her.

PHOTOGRAPH:

Penny De Los Santos
ILLUSTRATIONS:

Hatch Show Prints and
Bethany Taylor