October 24, 1995
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Elizabeth Schwartz
ATLANTA (CNN) -- From Harlem to Atlanta, soul food's gone on a diet. Lean and mean, slim and thin: those aren't what usually comes to mind when you think of this delicious culinary genre, with its succulent fried chicken, sloppy barbecued ribs, and vats of greens simmering in salt and pork fat.
But Sylvia's restaurant in New York now offers some lower-fat alternatives. Diners can order chicken skinless and baked instead of fried. Sylvia's also has started putting less salt in all the food. And the greens -- well, the greens were a challenge, because pork fat made them delicious.
George King said his restaurant has long been known for its tasty collard greens, and they looked hard for a healthy alternative to pork fat. (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound) After much experimentation, the chefs at Sylvia's found that adding a smoked turkey neck, which has less fat, worked just as well.
Restaurants down South also are finding ways to lighten up soul food. A couple of years ago at The Beautiful Restaurant in Atlanta, people started asking for healthier alternatives -- not a completely re-done menu, but a few lighter options. So baked and broiled fish, along with salads, are now on the menu. And the vegetables are cooked in vegetable oil instead of pork fat.
For home cooks who want to lighten up their meals, Jessica Harris, author of "The Welcome Table," recommends frying greens in olive oil.
There's no reason to be afraid of frying as long as it is done right, she said, and health-conscious eaters who tend to think they can't eat certain things perhaps need only to refine their approach a little. (135K AIFF sound or 135K WAV sound)
The trick, she said, is to fry in very hot oil. That way foods fry quickly at spend less time lounging in fatty oil.
Harris tells African-Americans to take pride in their cuisine. "Traditionally African-American cuisine is a healthy cuisine because it's based on fresh seasonal vegetables," she said.
It's one of the oldest and richest American cuisines, with ingredients and techniques brought over by slaves centuries ago. And with a few pointers, it can be healthier, too.
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