Special to South Florida Times

For blacks, the holidays are a time for foods galore in varieties that we may not have access to year round. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas yield delicious meals that bring families together in love and fellowship.

The matriarch of the family usually runs the holiday meals. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. For blacks, Thanksgiving Day has nothing to do with Pilgrims nor that genocidal celebration when the Native Americans were murdered and their land was stolen.

For us, Thanksgiving isn’t an isolated day for your immediate household to gather, but a time for reunion of family and friends (aka ‘everyone and their mama’) that you may not have seen all year.

It’s a time to be thankful to God, grateful for family, appreciative of friends and eat as much of the good stuff that “mama isn’t making until next year” as you can.

In fact, for blacks Thanksgiving dinner is such a serious matter, I know a vegan who trained himself for six months to eat meat again just so he could enjoy his mama’s Thanksgiving dinner when he went back home to Georgia. Yes, it’s that serious.

In black homes, Thanksgiving dinner usually always starts with a long prayer led by the elders of the family. During this time, even the heathens in the family – you know, those relatives who’ve strayed away from the family’s values and belief system – participate. It’s a matter of respect for our elders, because in the black family, we truly believe that it’s our Grandma’s prayers that have kept us regardless of our personal beliefs.

The foods on the black Thanksgiving table are wide, yet unique, in variety. We have beans (green beans), greens (collards), potatoes (potato salad, candied yams), tomatoes (stew), chicken (gizzards, fried, etc.), turkey (fried, smoked, smothered, baked), pork (hams, chitterlings, souse, pigtails, hog maw) … you name it!

While almost every American household has the traditional turkey, blacks don’t just bake it, we may deep fry it, smoke it or opt for turkey wings instead of the whole bird and smother it in brown gravy.

Turkey isn’t the only meat on the menu. We also have honey baked ham, fried chicken, neck bones and the highly controversial chitterlings. Chitterlings are a hot topic every year and while some blacks look forward to eating them, others aren’t too keen on them for reasons ranging from the smell they exude while cleaning them to the thought of where the food originated.

Chitterlings (also known as ‘Chittlins’) date back to slavery days when blacks made use of the entire pig because it’s all they had to eat. Pig intestines are cleaned thoroughly, soaked, then cut and slow cooked with herbs until tender.

Some blacks feel this is a tradition that should’ve died when slavery did, while others feel this food shows just how resourceful our ancestors were. They took scraps and turned them into a delicious meal. No matter which side of the chittlin fence you’re on, we all know that if you’re going to eat them, you can’t eat them from just anybody. In my family, chittlins are a delicacy.

Accompaniments on the menu are everything but that. On the black Thanksgiving table, sides are king, starting with macaroni and cheese. This item dates back to James Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef, who created the original American mac and cheese recipe.

Yes, we’ve been cooking mac and cheese for a mighty long time.

While some northerners believe mac and cheese should be a solid block that can be cut with a knife, and culinary students are taught to start it with rue (flour), there is a correct way to cook it and it’s neither of those.

Other items including, corn bread, biscuits, dressing (not stuffing), gumbo, chicken and dumplings, and a variety of rice dishes (i.e. pigeon peas and rice, yellow rice, jambalaya or white rice paired with black eyed peas, traditionally called Hoppin’ John) or butter beans are all found on the holiday table in black families.

Then we have desserts. For blacks, favorites such as pound cake, banana pudding, peach cobbler, red velvet cake and that family favorite mama cooks so many of everyone hopes they get to leave with one, sweet potato pie (never pumpkin).

After dessert families usually play games like checkers and spades, during which a lot of trash talking and loud conversations about sports, politics and religion take place.

Along with all the food, desserts, games and loud talking, there are random bursts of singing, dancing and photos galore. Some families may also go to the movies or watch them, along with sports games, at home. My family is a traditional African American family with roots in Georgia and the Carolinas, but these traditions have been shared nationwide with many similar menu variations.

Christmas is very similar to Thanksgiving when it comes to holiday food and festivities. The only difference is there may be eggnog, cookies, caroling, church services and other traditions very specific to the Christmas holidays.

No matter where your family is from, I think we all can all agree that the only thing better than Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner in the black family are the leftovers the next day. One of the great things about soul food is it only gets better after having more time to marinate.

Enjoy your holiday flavors and check out a recipe I’ve provided just for you below.

Ernisha Randolph is a serial entrepreneur who serves as the CEO of South Florida-based culinary favorites Juanita’s Kitchen and Sweet South: Home of the Sweet Butter Show. She is the president of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network and has received numerous awards and recognitions for both her delicious meals and savvy business acumen. To keep up with Randolph’s endeavors follow her on Instagram @miamihousewife or connect with her on Facebook by requesting Ernisha Randolph.

Seven Cheese Herbed Macaroni and Cheese

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In black families it’s almost like blasphemy to not have macaroni and cheese on the holiday menu. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of one of the most gifted culinary experts in South Florida to share a recipe that’s been passed down through four generations. Ernisha Randolph of Juanita’s Kitchen and Sweet Butter Fame gave us a great summary of holiday food traditions. Now she’s shared a recipe for Seven Cheese Herbed Macaroni and Cheese that is sure to add some delicious flair to your holiday menu. Make sure you clip and keep this one !

Recipe Courtesy of Ernisha Randolph Serves 10-15


• 24 ounces of elbow macaroni

• 2 sticks butter

• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

• 3 large eggs

• 3 cups milk

• 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 1 1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt

• Dash of pepper

• 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack

• 1/2 cup shredded Muenster cheese

• 1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese

• 1 1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

• 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

• 2 cups mild cheddar cheese


• 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese

• 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

• 2 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the pasta in salted water until cooked to al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Meanwhile, place the butter and rosemary in a small pot over low heat to melt. Allow it to remain on warm until it’s time to mix all the ingredients together.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the eggs and milk. Add the smoked paprika, seasoned salt and pepper. Pour the infused butter over the pasta and mix well. Add the milk mixture into the pasta and mix together.

Add the shredded pepper jack, muenster, asiago, both cheddars and mozzarella to the pasta and mix well. Pour into an ovenproof casserole dish and bake in oven for 30-35 minutes.

Prepare the top layer of cheeses and set aside combining mild, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses in a medium bowl. Remove the macaroni from oven and stir gently.

Sprinkle the top layer with cheese mixture over the top. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and breadcrumbs (optional). Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm.