Fran Osseo-Asare deserves a big hand for all her work on raising awareness of African cooking in the United States. The author of Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Osseo-Asare, a sociologist, initiated a project aimed at collecting African cookbooks, along with TEDGLOBAL in Arusha, Tanzania in June, 2007.
One interesting post (among many) on Fran’s blog — “Giving Credit for African Cookbooks” — discusses Laurens van der Post (who wrote the African volume of the famed Time-Life cookbook series) and the obligations that cookbook authors have toward the people who provide them with recipes and other material for the books. Van der Post, apparently, did not recognize some of his informants as well as he should have.
Check out Fran’s blog — it’s worth many, many visits.
I recently watched a PBS special on Appalachia, and one of the experts interviewed said that when European diseases swept through Native American villages the destruction was of more than the material culture, the huts, etc.: the deaths of the adults meant the death of knowledge in those pre-literate societies. That comment made me realize that women carry cooking knowledge in their heads and often there is no written record of the way they cook, in part because of the wide-spread incidence of female illiteracy in much of the developing world. And the terrible toll wrought by AIDS-HIV in some African cultures resembles something similar to what happened so long ago in Appalachia among the Native Americans.
Sorrowfully, knowledge of cooking is being lost along with all the lives in Africa, too.
All the more reason to applaud and support the African Cookbook Project …
© 2009 C. Bertelsen