Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Interpreting The Life In Food

Kale with bacon Contributor Anthony Beal, is a fiction author turned food writer/blogger, and the creator of Flavorful World food and drink blog.

If French cooking’s “mother sauces” and the “three sisters” of Native American cuisine are any indication, it’s common for reflections on food and cooking to call familial relationships to our hearts and minds. The first fruits harvest celebration called Kwanzaa places significant focus on respect for food and family, as well as other principles aimed at unifying and elevating the African/African-American community. This is one reason of many that I’m proud to number among the many talented contributors to the efforts of the Kwanzaa Culinarians.

As happens across many cultures during this season, our thoughts turn to manners of observance, and to the traditions that characterize those celebrations. The tradition of sharing a home-cooked meal with family and friends is perhaps the most universal and enjoyable of these. My earliest memory of my publicly-expressed interest in cooking reaches back to my being six years old and in the first grade. One day toward year’s end, my teacher presented my class with a confidence-building exercise. Calling on us individually, she challenged each child to complete the sentence, “I know I’m alive because I can…” When my answer was given, my classmates all laughed at what I said. My honest response, perhaps influenced by my anticipation of good eating since the holiday season was upon us at the time, was “I know I’m alive because I can cook.”

I wasn’t lying. My happiest childhood memories are of being a toddler with kind parents, both of whom cooked as much for personal pleasure as for sustenance, and were always willing to let me aid their efforts by adding spices, mixing ingredients, and tasting each creation’s progress as we worked. Food and its enjoyment honor the principle of Umoja (Unity) through their power to bring people to the table, in both the physical and metaphorical sense, to partake in communal appreciation of life’s blessings and artistry. Food and its preparation embody the principle of Kuumba (Creativity) as each generation contributes new recipes toward defining and shaping its cultural identity. It’s a personal fascination of which I’ve written before, and each day to which I’m blessed to awaken further cements the following opinions I first offered up in an article introducing myself and my rationale to the world of food blogging:

…food is capable of feeding far more than a rumbling stomach. Food is life; our well-being demands it. Food is art and magic; it evokes emotion and colors memory, and in skilled hands, meals become greater than the sum of their ingredients. Food is self-evident; plucked right from the ground or vine or sea, its power to delight is immediate. Food is discovery; finding an untried spice or cuisine is for me like uncovering a new element. Food is evolution; how we interpret it remains ever fluid. Food is humanitarian: sharing it bridges cultures, making friends of strangers pleasantly surprised to learn how much common ground they ultimately share.

So it’s with an eye toward Umoja, Kuumba, and Kujichagulia (the principle of Self-Determination to define oneself, to create for oneself) that I’m honored to share the following recipes created to honor Kwanzaa and all that it embodies. Happy Kwanzaa to all.

Kale with Red Pepper and Bacon
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
7 ounces bacon, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup water
16 ounces fresh kale

In Dutch oven or high-rimmed pot with lid, cook bacon over medium-high heat until brown. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Pour away grease and discard.

In same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir until butter and flour form a roux. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until roux darkens to the color of caramel.

Stir in bacon, onion, and red pepper, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add water and stir. Add kale to pot and cover with lid. Let cook for 6-8 minutes.

Remove lid and fold together pot contents with a spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Cook uncovered for another 6-8 minutes, or until most of liquid is absorbed.

Savory Couscous with Asparagus
2 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon Madras curry
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter
1 cup chopped asparagus
10 ounces couscous

Combine chicken stock, garlic, onion, garam masala, Madras curry, and butter in saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Place on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Add asparagus and continue boiling for 3 minutes.

Stir in couscous. Cover saucepan with lid and remove from heat. Let stand 6-7 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.

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About FlavorfulWorld

Anthony Beal, is a food blogger and wine scholar, and the creator of Flavorful World: A Food, Wine, and Spirits Blog. A New York native currently residing in the D.C. area, he continues to pursue new food- and drink-related knowledge to be shared through his writing. He is a member of the American Institute of Wine & Food, the International Wine Guild, the Society of Wine Educators, and the French Wine Society. In December 2012, Anthony earned his ServSafe® Food Handler Certificate. In January 2013, he earned Cellar Manager certification through the International Wine Guild. In April 2013, Anthony passed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level II Wines and Spirits Certification Course “with Merit.” In June 2013, he earned his Beverage Specialist Certificate from the Society of Wine Educators. In January 2014, he passed the WSET Level III Advanced Wines and Spirits Certification Course “with Merit.” In August 2015, he earned the French Wine Society’s Master-Level Certificate on the wines of Provence. When Anthony isn’t cooking and/or eating delicious things, he enjoys traveling, studying Japanese language and culture, reading, tasting/learning about wine, and being a darn fine husband and father.

2 comments on “Interpreting The Life In Food

  1. Pingback: Kale with Red Pepper, Bacon, and Our Thanks | Flavorful World food and drink blog

  2. Lisa Johnson
    December 26, 2011

    I love the way that you describe food. “Art and magic, self-evident, discovery, evolution.” So wonderfully expressed. I enjoyed reading every tasty bit of this post!


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Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

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