WHEN I TOLD PEOPLE in Australia I was writing my book they were mystified about what soul food is. That's one of the reasons I wrote it.

And, as more American-style bars and restaurants open across Australia, I believe it's important that Australians like myself and everyone else know a little of the history of African American cuisine, and its massive and delicious contribution to American cooking. To find out more about soul food and taste it for myself, I decided to visit some of the people cooking this delicious food way over in the USA.

As a passionate cook, I wanted to meet and speak with people who cook these dishes, or remember growing up with homecooked soul food cooking low and slow in their family kitchen. I also wanted to know how these dishes were cooked, and how they were supposed to taste.

I flew out of Sydney International airport on a rain-soaked winter's day with a list of facebook friends and restaurants to visit. I took a camera and a microphone, and a huge appetite for adventure.

My soul food journey through the USA was measured in meals and conversations. I sipped watermelon juice under a blazing hot sun at a soul food street fair, and visited 'old school' family-run diners, as well as iconic soul food restaurants, and I spoke to home cooks and bloggers.

So many wonderful people shared their stories with me, or simply helped me get from point A to point B, with charm and generosity.

I met Martha at her stall at the Harlem Street Fair, where she was selling Shrimp Scampi, Pecan pies, Peach Cobbler and Apple Crisp. Martha's advice was, "Just add a pinch of this and a pinch of that to your cooking, and make it yours".

I've included a mix of traditional and contemporary soul food recipes Collard Greens, Neckbones, Chitlins and added my own twist to recipes including: Mint Julep Tea, Spoonbread with a Twist, Honey Soul Wafers, and Oakland Soul Salad.

I hope you'll buy my book, experiment, and make these recipes your own. More about soul food...

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Food stalls at Harlem street fair / You can read about the significance of tinned peaches, collard greens, and the rocking chairs at Charlotte Airport Arrivals Lounge in my book / Leaving rainy Sydney International Airport bound for the USA. (Image: Jim Butcher, MrAndMrsRomance.com)

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SOULICIOUS – Recipes and Interviews from my Soul Food Journey to the USA. ISBN