March 13, 2024

East Neighborhood Dining Team Shares a Taste of Soul with the Campus Community

When college students travel across the globe to pursue an education, they often leave family traditions behind. Among them are unique recipes and flavors that are deeply rooted in their culture and background.

More than 15 years ago, Lisa Cox was approached by students at Michigan State University (MSU) about offering soul food on campus. They also wondered if she could truly cook these traditional African American dishes.

“When you’re creating soul food, you just put a lot of love into it, and that’s what makes it taste really good,” said Lisa. “It’s not following a scripted recipe — a pinch of this, a pinch of that.”

Currently a Cook II for Culinary Services, Lisa has worked at MSU for more than 22 years, putting her love for Spartan students and passion for cuisine into East Neighborhood menus. In 2005, she accepted the students’ challenge and has been serving up delicious soul food during Black History Month since.

The annual Soul Food Lunch for 2024 was held Feb. 21 at The Edge at Akers, one of MSU’s all-you-care-to-eat dining halls. In addition to an extensive menu featuring pork ribs, shrimp and grits, candied sweet potatoes, cornbread and more, guests enjoyed live music from a jazz quartet from the MSU ARTS4U program. They also sampled sweet treats, like peach cobbler, lemon pound cake and pecan pie.

“Soul food makes you gather around the table; you bring all your problems, your situations and everything. By the time you got up from the table, everybody was happy because they ate and enjoyed the meal,” she said.

Between family-owned restaurants and cooking as a child, Lisa was raised with a deep appreciation for authentic cuisine, including Southern dishes. Students at MSU have valued this event and her efforts because they only experience these options when they visit family for the holidays or during semester breaks. Having a little taste of soul on campus can truly give them the connection to home they crave.

This year’s event was featured on Eat at State social media channels, which included a video sharing Lisa’s story:

WLNS News 6 also included the Soul Food Lunch in their Black History Month feature:

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