July 21st, 2012
10:30 AM ET
Editor's Note: Byron Hurt is a documentary filmmaker whose latest film, Soul Food Junkies, is scheduled to broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens in January 2013.
A friend of mine called me Thursday evening and asked, “Did you hear the news about Sylvia?”
I knew right away which Sylvia my friend was referring to. Something must have happened to Ms. Sylvia Woods, the pioneering restaurateur whose soul food gave so many people comfort.
July 20th, 2012
09:30 AM ET
Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area. He blogs at Afroculinaria.com and thecookinggene.com. As the originator of the Cooking Gene Project, he seeks to trace his ancestry through food.
Walking down the ambiguous “ethnic” aisle in the local supermarket the other day ago, I was struck by the fact that every other ethnic group seemed to have a label on their cooking supplies but African Americans. I shouldn’t complain - it’s probably in the best interest of culinary political correctness. Then that familiar smiling face greeted me from my favorite seasoning for greens - a youthful, beautiful Sylvia Woods telling me that we didn’t need a label, we just needed to be.
The “Queen of Soul Food,” lent her face and character to a brand built on dignity - from a line of products for the Up South home cook to cookbooks, to a successful family business that is justly the culinary embassy of Harlem. To those of us inspired by her entrepreneurial drive and commitment to family, faith and food, the loss of Mrs. Woods is a time to reflect on the unique gifts this gastronomic ambassador brought to the American table.
July 19th, 2012
07:15 PM ET
Legendary restaurateur Sylvia Woods, known internationally as the Queen of Soul Food, passed away on Thursday, according to a statement issued by her family. She was 86.
“Sylvia gallantly battled Alzheimer's for the past several years, but never once lost her loving smile,” her family said. She died peacefully surrounded by loved ones at her Westchester home.
Woods’ world-renowned Harlem establishment, Sylvia’s, has drawn celebrities, politicians, tourists and locals alike to eat its famed soul food for more than 50 years.