Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Emme Ribeiro of Food Samba Celebrates Umoja

Emme Ribeiro is a chef and blogger based in Seattle, Washington. She began her website,, with a mission to inspire people to take their ordinary recipes and turn them into extraordinary and exotic recipes. is all about giving traditional dishes a Brazilian/Latin flare that will wow your family and friends. She shares her views of umoja, or unity.

Emme's Daughter - Kwanzaa Culinarians

Umoja, unity, is the first principle celebrated during the week-long Kwanzaa celebration. This principle is about maintaining unity in the family, community, nation and race. Being unified means being strong. People can accomplish more together than they can alone. Many things can bring people together, but I think that food is the main thing that unifies all.

Umoja and food, in my opinion, go hand in hand. Whenever I think of my fondest, dearest memories, somewhere and somehow food was involved. Food brings people together and promotes umoja in a community. This is the reason I am so passionate about food–it unites people like nothing else can.

To get more insight on how food and unity are intertwined together, I had a Q & A with my parents. They are the owners of a Brazilian restaurant in Seattle and in my eyes are the prime example of people promoting umoja in a community through food. As you watch the video at this link or below, you will learn a little more about their feelings about umoja as it relates to food, why umoja is important in a community and about the Afro-Brazilian cuisine and culture.

After speaking with my parents, I began thinking of how important umoja is for the African diaspora, today and hundreds of years ago and how it is passed on from generation to generation. Brazil, particularly Bahia, received the largest population of African slaves. Everything from cuisine, to religion and music was heavily influenced by the African culture brought by the African slaves. And, because the slaves maintained a sense of unity and community, till this day their influences are present in the Bahian culture. I also see this same example happening with my parents and their migration here to the US. When they came to the US, nearly eighteen years ago, they didn’t leave their culture behind with them in Brazil; they brought it with them through music, art and food. This preservation made it possible for me to maintain a connection with my Brazilian culture, which at the age of six, I could have easily lost. And today, I stand here with a mission to continue to promote this beautiful culture that my African ancestors preserved for me.

Spiced Yam and Orange Cake - Kwanzaa Culinarians

Spiced Yam and Orange Cake with Brown Butter Rum Glaze

Ingredients for the Cake
1 large yam
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp fresh orange zest
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Glaze
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk, plus more if desired
1 teaspoon dark rum
1 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub yam  with  vegetable oil place on a baking tray and bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Peel and mash with a fork (should measure to about 1 cup). Keep oven on.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, orange juice, zest and mashed yam until light and fluffy.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the yam mixture and ix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter into a greased cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Heat butter until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Add milk, sugar, and rum to butter and whisk until smooth. If too thick add more milk. Pour immediately over cake.

Braised Oxtails and Collards--Kwanzaa Culinarians

Braised Oxtail and Collard Greens Stew

1 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
4 pounds oxtails
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons tomato paste
Water, to cover
1 bunch of collard greens, tough stem removed and cut into 1/2” thick slices

1. Dredge oxtails in flour. In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the oil. When oil is hot, add the oxtail, in batches, and brown for 3 minutes on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Add onions, salt, pepper and cumin. Sauté until onions become translucent. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme and tomato paste and water. Return oxtails to the pot and cook for 2 hours.

3. Add collard greens and continue to cook until meat is tender and starts falling off bone, about 1 hour.

In addition to her blog, you can find Emme on Facebook and Twitter.

About The Duo Dishes

Chrystal Baker is a private cook, recipe developer, culinary production artist and freelance contributor to, as well as a culinary production team member for various TV shows, commercials, photo shoots and online content. She maintains, a Los Angeles-based food blog that features dishes influenced by family tradition, regional fare and worldly flavors. She also shares travel stories and links to published work via a personal blog, You can follow her trail on Instagram and Twitter-- @AnynEverywhere and @TheDuoDishes.

One comment on “Emme Ribeiro of Food Samba Celebrates Umoja

  1. June Rugh
    December 26, 2011

    What a powerful, poignant essay. This shows so clearly how unity and heritage can be shared/preserved through food. (And how much can be lost if this doesn’t happen: as Emme writes, when she moved to the US from Brazil at age six, she could have lost everything.) I especially liked the Q+A clip with her parents: a tribute to their part in her evolution as a chef, and family umoja at its best! This is also a tribute to the fierce umoja of Afro-Brazilian culture: the unity and strength of spirit from when African slaves were first brought to Brazil in the 1500s, persevering through the centuries, and still alive today in the form of samba, capoeira, spiritual traditions, and the recipes on this very page. (I will be making the spiced yam and orange cake soon!)


Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 26, 2011 by in 2011, Personal Story, Recipe, Umoja and tagged , , , , , , , .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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.

%d bloggers like this: