People come together for discussion about food, music, and culture

Chef Jennifer Carpenter (l) and Carrie Allen Tipton, musicologist, participate in NMAAM discussion during Black History Month at Swett's Restaurant.

Chef Jennifer Carpenter (l) and Carrie Allen Tipton, musicologist, participate in NMAAM discussion during Black History Month at Swett’s Restaurant.

Dozens of people gathered at a local Nashville restaurant for a discussion on an issue very important and symbolic of the African American community during Black History Month on February 16.

‘Soul Food: The Connection of Food, Music, and Culture’ took place at Swett’s Restaurant in Nashville as part of the Sips and Stanzas Series organized by the National Museum of African American Music. Author and scholar Dr. Yvonne Kendall moderated as the focus was on the connection between music and food and how it affects American culture. Jennifer Carpenter, executive chef of the Garden Brunch Cafe and one of the panelists, said that she believed that soul food has a connection to music because most businesses that were soulful places have soul music.

“Soul food and music have always been a part of American culture. I think that anytime you find a group of African Americans together to have a good time, there’s going to be some food and there’s going to be some music,” said Carpenter. “I don’t know if that’ll ever change, but, as far as a culture, that’s a part of who we are.”

Carpenter said that soul food is a southern tradition that came from Africa to the United States along with soul music. She said soul food and music is an integrated part of American and African culture. The soul food effect has spread throughout the country, even though it started in the southern United States because people are leaving the South for other places.

H. Beecher Hicks, NMAAM president/CEO, said the connection between food, music, and culture is interrelated because music goes together with food. Music can be a living experience, while food can be a chance for bonding and community and family togetherness—meaning that anytime you have food, you will have music.

“I think that, fundamentally, it has remained the same. The type of music has changed. The food we eat has changed, but the idea of friends and family getting together over a meal has been consistent and enjoying music along with that meal has been consistent,” said Hicks.

When it comes to the importance of the Sips and Stanzas Series by the NMAAM, Hicks said it started as a way of getting people to discuss subjects of great interest. He said the museum is a place of music and intellect where people can explore music from different perspectives.