Feb 10, 2023 • Annie Cao
Black and African cuisine has a deep and important history, with roots in every continent. In honor of Black History Month, here are 5 recipes we'd like to showcase from different areas of African and Black culture.
Before we get into sharing some recipes, it's important to know the history of African American food. Based on the book by Dr. Jessica B. Harris, this impactful and groundbreaking Netflix series explores Black food history through a never-before-seen lens. The show was created by a Black creative team and hosted by Stephen Satterfield, a food writer, former sommelier, and trained chef.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Harris celebrates the delicious and restorative foods of the African American experience and details how each came to form such an important part of African American culture, history, and identity. Although the story of African cuisine in America begins with slavery, High on the Hog ultimately chronicles a thrilling history of triumph and survival.
In the past, American TV placed African-American dishes in restrictive boxes labeled as "soul food" or "Southern food." This four-part documentary fills a gap in culinary history that was long overdue by shedding some much-needed light on how African Americans and Black cooks played an integral part in shaping American cuisine.
Enslaved Africans who came to America through the Transatlantic Slave Trade received small, low-quality food rations that had little nutrients to keep them healthy. In order to preserve their culture, they modified their traditional recipes to create many of the Black dishes that we see today. The same happened around the world, resulting in a rich, multicultural menu. Although African American cuisine originated from a place of struggle, it now represents survival, ancestry, and innovation at its core. Black foodways are full of joy, love and celebration.
I want people to perceive it as celebratory...Oftentimes when our shows get made, when our stories get told, when our food gets talked about, it’s the ‘hardship’ story. I don’t even mean celebrating resilience. I mean look at all these beautiful Black people moving uninhibited, unencumbered, in a centuries-long tradition of how we convene, shape culture, celebrate, make a living. This has always been part of our tradition as a diasporic people descending from the continent of Africa."
- Stephen Satterfield
Created by Eric Jones on Dude That Cookz, this dish combines Cajun and Creole flavors. Having grown up eating stewed okra and tomatoes and succotash (made with okra, sweet corn, lima beans, turnips, and tomatoes), Eric decided to add his own twist to stewed okra and tomatoes by using chicken sausage.
Okra is a vegetable that originated in Ethiopia and is commonly used in stews. Additionally, succotash is known as an inexpensive staple in the South that has a long history of feeding people through tough times.
Nicole Charles from Heal Me Delicious modified her family's Stew Beef recipe and created an autoimmune protocol (AIP), paleo, and nightshade-free version.
For Nicole's recipe, the beef marinade consists of cilantro, thyme, chives, and lime. You can marinate the meat for a minimum of 45 minutes to overnight, depending on how much time you have and how flavorful you want it to be. It's then browned with coconut sugar and cooked alongside carrots and grain-free dumplings.
In Trinidad, stew beef is a staple Caribbean dish that caramelizes the meat in sugar for a deep brown color and rich flavors.
Marrekus and Krysten are the husband-and-wife duo behind Cooks With Soul and this flavorful dish with a fascinating background. Here, Cajun Andouille sausage is made from scratch with ground pork shoulder, then stuffed into hog casings that are smoked over cherry and pecan wood. The sausages are served with Cajun shrimp and grits, but can also be paired with red beans and rice.
There are debates about whether Andouille has French or German roots, but its history goes back to the 18th century. The Cajun Andouille sausage is said to be the combined result of sausage makers and the cooking flavors of African and French descendants that lived in Louisiana during that time.
Sharilyn from Beloved Plate is the creator behind this sweet and tangy dish! Using sweet potatoes (yes, yams and sweet potatoes are often confused and mislabeled), warm spices, butter, and fruits, these candied yams have a modern twist that's great for the holidays or for satisfying your sweet tooth year-round.
In the American South, candied yams are considered a staple for the dinner table. In West Africa, it's more common to use starchy tropical yams, but in the States, sweet potatoes became a convenient substitute. Yams are also historically seen as a symbol of fertility and prosperity in West African culture.
Zainab is the self-taught cook and baker behind A Classic Twist. While she was growing up in Sierra Leone, Zainab's dad introduced passionfruit to her. It became one of her comfort flavors and serves as part of the inspiration for this layered cake.
Passionfruit curd is sandwiched between each layer of this coconut cake and is topped with Swiss meringue buttercream. For those who are fans of baking and tropical flavors, this recipe is sure to be a refreshing hit!
"West African spiritual practices often revolved around deities who had favorite foods like black-eyed peas, which are native to the continent." - NY Times
Which recipes are you excited to try? Do you have a favorite Black or African American dish that's a must-have in your weekly menu? Let us know in the comments below!
Recipes shared from Food52's Virtual Potluck
Cover image via A Sweet Point of View