Hunger, Starvation, Famine and the Sweep of Human History

When it comers to food, we humans live in a paradox these days. In the West, there's too much food --- as long as one has money with which to buy it --- and because of that excess, we begin to look like the Michelin Man or the Pillsbury Doughboy. And on the flip side …

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Boarding House Food in Lagos, Nigeria

In Africa, boarding houses enjoy a popularity resembling that of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries in the USA, for the same reasons. More reasonable in cost than buying a house or living in an apartment, a boarding house also eliminates the need to worry about food preparation. Many students, such as those attending school in…

Food and the British Raj in Africa: A Photographic Interlude

Because photographs and artwork lend insight into time periods that words might not (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?), it behooves those of us with a penchant for food history (and just plain prurient curiosity!) to examine visual renditions of the past. While reading old diaries, journals, and letters of the British Raj,…

Adding More Spices to Your Life

Jessica B. Harris, chronicler of many things African, at least when it comes to cooking anyway,  includes a recipe for “Traditional Peppersoup Spice Mixture” in her book, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent (Simon & Schuster, 1998). She says, “I have included this recipe so that you can see the world of new tastes…

Bambara Groundnuts, Not Peanuts

Bambara groundnuts (Voandzeia subterranea) claim no peanuts as relatives. Another indigenous food from West Africa, the groundnut does tend to end up cooked in the same way that  peanuts are, however. Cooks use pulverized groundnuts as a thickener, in much the same way that Middle Eastern cooks use almonds and Italian cooks use walnuts or…

Fish: Garum and Beyond

O le bi oju eja ti ehin ko le iwe. (Yoruba) : It is as hard as the eye of a (smoked) fish, which the teeth cannot break. [N.B. -- Applicable to any difficult matter.] (from Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton) Most people who live to eat (definition: the food-obsessed) might…

The Black Death Revisited, Momentarily

All the talk about swine flu (April 2009) naturally calls up images of the catastrophic 14th-century pandemic of bubonic plague. Or the Black Death, as it came to be called, because of the gangrenous flesh of its victims, thanks to the disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), or purpura, that occurred. Actually, three types of plague appeared:…

Hunger and Hope

Today, even as I immerse myself in the wonders of African cooking, I need to mention malnutrition and hunger. In the same breath, as it were. Today's a day when many bloggers around the world will post comments and material on the ever-present problem of hunger in our communities, countries, and the world as a…

Cape Malay Cooking

A Cape Malay Cooking Safari: A little history and a scene-setting food shopping tour, then comes the food and a cooking class. Cape Malay Cookbooks and a recipe: The Cape Malay Illustrated Cookbook, by Fadela Williams More Cape Malay Cooking,  by Faldela Williams South African Cape Malay Cooking, by Sonia Allison and Myrna Robins Traditional…

African Cookbook Project

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…

A Dish (or Two) for Children in British Colonial Africa

(A tribute to those women who endured the challenges of living in unfamiliar and far-flung places, raising their children without their extended families around. And cooking what they could.) Sometimes it literally WAS a dog's breakfast. And mothers couldn't do anything about it. Feeding their children properly preoccupied those mothers who followed their English husbands…

World Food Crisis — One of the Next President’s Major Worries

The next president will have his hands full with many pressing problems, both here in the United States and abroad. One of those problems will, of course, be the financial disaster on Wall Street. Another will be plain, unvarnished world hunger. An article in The Washington Post pointed out the impact that the Wall Street…

Hog and Hominy: Soul Food From Africa to America, by Frederick Douglass Opie

Several books on African-American cooking tempt me right now, all brilliant in their own way. See Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power, by Psyche Williams-Forson; Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food, by Andrew Warnes; African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture, edited by Anne…

Out of Africa: Review of “Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa”

Say “African food” and most people visualize a cartoon with two missionaries boiling in a black iron pot in the middle of a jungle clearing. That’s the “Dark Continent” picture, deeply rooted in the West’s persistent attitude of colonialism toward Africa. Or, instead, they “see” stick-thin children sprawled out on their mothers’ laps, listless, flies swarming everywhere.