A Theology of Barbecue & Soul Food

Adrian Miller February 12, 2020

This mouth-watering, soul-tingling event brought culinary historian, popular author and theologian Adrian Miller to Upper House to share the evolution of barbecue and soul food as a church and cultural phenomenon.

Winner of the James Beard Foundation Book Award and Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches, Miller will bring soul food to life and share how barbecue became central to church culture in the United States. In this session, we will explore barbecue’s denominations (regional styles), discover churches that operate barbecue restaurants, and meet preachers who double as pitmasters.

Miller will share how the very term “soul food” changed from characterizing the way one grows spiritually (listening to a sermon, studying Scripture, singing hymns) into a popular label for a traditional African American food. Soul food is no longer limited to the rural South, where it was once a “make-do food” for the hard-pressed. It is now respected as an American cuisine and sought out for its own delectability in neighborhood cafes and foody-frequented restaurants throughout the country.

Event partners were Madison365 and Selfless Ambition.

Adrian Miller is a culinary historian and currently the Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches. Miller is the author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time (2013), a 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner for Reference and Scholarship. His recent book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas (2017), was nominated for a 2018 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction.” Miller is a graduate of Stanford University and Georgetown University Law School. After practicing law in Denver for several years, he became a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and the Deputy Director of the President’s Initiative for One America. Following that, Miller returned to Colorado, where he served as the General Counsel and Director of Outreach at the Bell Policy Center. Currently, Miller is working on Black Smoke, a history of African American barbecue culture.