She won them over with her chitterlings.
Last year, Deborah Dickerson, a Plaquemine soul food restaurant owner and music lover, reached out to Baton Rouge Soul Food Festival founder and bluesman Henry Turner Jr. to learn more about his efforts to preserve soul food culture. The two got to talking, and before Turner knew it, Dickerson had offered to bring 150 pounds of chitterlings to the festival’s pre-party.
“She overwhelmed with us with her abilities,” Turner says in this month’s issue of 225. “Her food is off the chain.”
The 2022 festival takes place this weekend, May 14-15, during which Dickerson will be named this year’s Soul Food Pioneer for her contributions to regional soul food preservation. Dickerson is the owner and founder of D’s Southern Soul Café in historic downtown Plaquemine, a friendly, inviting spot on Railroad Avenue where the weekly menu meanders through a hit parade of belly-warming soul food classics.
Regular customers are fully versed in the lineup. Mondays are known for red beans and fried pork chops. Tuesdays spotlight hamburger steak and liver and onions. Wednesdays feature shrimp and okra, white beans and smothered pork chops. Thursdays will make you earn your soul food stripes with chitterlings—braised and seasoned pig intestines, and tripe, the sinewy lining of the stomach. (If offal is not your jam, ribs and turkey wings are also on the menu.) Fridays are all about fried fish and shrimp stew.
A native of Iberville Parish, Dickerson moved to New Orleans at age 10 after her mother remarried, and says her cuisine blends the culinary traditions of her rural roots with the Creole foodways of the Crescent City. After high school, she entered the Army and spent the next couple decades serving on bases in Egypt, Israel, across Europe and in the U.S. Now back home, she says preparing soul food is helping her overcome the PTSD she experienced from active duty, and is easing her transition to civilian life.
At its core, soul food is about thrift, stemming from the manner by which enslaved people and their descendants cooked with discarded or inexpensive ingredients. Coaxing rich flavor from cast-off cuts is soul food’s signature, demonstrated in the style’s long, slow braises and rich gravies.