From creamy macaroni and cheese to fried chicken feet, soul food has brought happiness to families and individuals throughout the world. Soul food is typically associated with states in the deep South, but the cooking style is traditional in the Appalachian region, too.
It’s a warm spring afternoon at Manna House Ministries, a Second Baptist Church in Beckley, West Virginia. Xavier Oglesby is singing his favorite hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” as he prepares a macaroni salad in the church’s kitchen. Today, Oglesby is cooking alone, but normally this kitchen would be bustling with life.
“It kind of reminds you of when you watch a bee’s nest and how the bees are. They’re buzzing around and everybody is just so busy. That’s just kind of what it looks like, but it’s an organized chaos,” Oglesby said. “The ladies at the church growing up, you know the old ladies, they’d be cooking. And all the ladies, they would bring their best recipes. And every one of them is good at something — at least one thing — and they pride themselves at that.”