Windsor folk warming to southern soul food

Rain or shine, you can find Patrick Weatherspoon standing behind a large barbecue outside his new Windsor, Ont., restaurant.

Patrick Weatherspoon

Weatherspoon recently opened a soul food restaurant — a type of cuisine not easy to come by in Windsor.

He said he was surprised by that when he used to visit Windsor from Detroit.

“There was never a place here that we could go to and sit down and eat a real good home-cooked soul food meal. Every pocket corner of Detroit, you can find a soul food restaurant.”

For years, Weatherspoon had been cooking at pop-up locations, but now, he has a permanent restaurant.

According to award-winning culinary author and historian Michael Twitty, soul food is the cuisine carried on by the descendants of enslaved people — with deep roots in the rural south of the United States. Food like collard greens, candied yams and chicken still links them to the past.

Twitty, who lives in Virginia, said he’s surprised there aren’t more soul food restaurants in southwestern Ontario because of the number of African Americans who have moved farther north over the years. He chalks it up to people cooking traditional meals at home.

Nita’s soul eatery

Weatherspoon said a good portion of his clientele is Americans crossing the border, or Americans who now live in Canada.

Weatherspoon said his food isn’t just for Black Americans and Canadians, it’s a cuisine that over time he’s hoping to share with all.

While soul food is something more people in Windsor seem to be getting a taste for, not many outlets are serving it up.

Another local cook who’s been making it available is Juanita Hurst with her pop-up business, Nita’s Soul.

Hurst said she began to follow in her mother’s cooking footsteps a few years ago — kind of out of necessity.

“I started around COVID time because I was working two jobs and I got laid off from both of them,” she said. “Cooking was something that I wanted to try out … do it for my kids, my family and everything.”

And once her neighbours got a taste, she said, they encouraged her to market her soul food via social media because they were unaware of anyone doing soul food in the city.

Juanita’s mother, Judith, got her into cooking soul food.

Judith said her favourite dish to make and eat is fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. But don’t expect her to divulge the soul food recipe anytime soon, even to family — similar to her mother and her homemade bread she was known for.