Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
By Nadine Nelson of Global Local Gourmet.
The sixth principle of the Nguzo Saba relates to building and developing of our creative potential. KUUMBA (KOO-M-BAH) means CREATIVITY in Swahili. The secret to creativity in the kitchen is improvising dishes with whatever you have on hand. A treasure trove of culinary genius can be had by the black cooks that lead kitchens throughout history with our culinary lineage marked by “seconds, leftovers, what’s left, offal, and less than ingredients;” limited only by their imaginations that used constrictions in the pantry to become unexpected triumphs on the plate. The cult of domesticity and the space of the kitchen for Blacks, especially for African-American women as culinary historian Jessica B. Harris says “Black people have been in the room, but for so long they were so good at being invisible that they were easy to leave out of the historical record.” The kitchen has been a space of servitude and scarcity, and sometimes violence, yet a place of comfort, shelter, creativity, commerce and fellowship.
In Colonial America, England, and many of the kitchens ran by cooks of the African Diaspora throughout time, Culinary Historian, Michael Twitty, asserts “Every household had their own version on hand, a mysterious spice blend, often a blend of dried ginger, bay leaf, allspice, mace, dried parsley, and salt, that what food lacked in cooking time, it gained in flavor from marinating overnight in kitchen pepper.” Condiments and spices mixtures personify creativity of people of the African Diaspora in the kitchen because they enhanced and heightened the food of cooks and allowed them to signify their style with special “spice, seasoning, sauce, preserve, or pickle… relish,chow chow, piccalill, and chutney.” All these concoctions that comprised the bulk of a larder that not only preserved vegetables from the garden for the colder months, they added flavor and spice to a meal. Which family doesn’t have those craved recipes like your Aunt’s special bbq sauce, a cousin’s hot sauce, or your grandmothers seasoning dust?
The Kuumba principle demands continuous improvement both at the personal and family level. The kitchen is a symbolic, spiritual, and central space, the nucleus and hearth of the home. The
kitchen is a space for community time, of shared lives and of communal intimacy. A nourishing environment,like the womb, the kitchen it is the perfect environment to nurture creativity. “To do always as much as we can in the way we can in order to leave our family and community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it. It involves both aesthetic and material creations. It is essential that creativity be encouraged in all aspects of African American culture. It is through new ideas that we achieve higher levels of living and a greater appreciation for life. Each family member should find creative things to do throughout the year that will enhance the family as a whole.” On this day and as often as your can, listen to music, have your elders share food memories and recipes with you, cook together, it is a revolutionary act, plan a garden, draw, watch an independent film like “Daughters of the Dust”, “Soul Food Junkies”, “Sankofa”, dance, drum, sing, take pictures, write, recite, make edible gifts, and be creatively you. Happy Kwanzaa!
Drawing from the tradition of the all purpose seasoning mix from the Brazilian state of Bahia is a blend known as Tempero Baiano in Brazilian Portuguese, with the Creole seasoning of Louisiana with their French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, and Italian influences and the Colombo of the French Caribbean and the Curry of the former British Isles; this mix is a tribute to the female cooks that have made memorable meals without accolades. Oshun or Oxum as she is called in Brazil is the African goddess of beauty, love, prosperity and fertility. She is known for her cooking skills and being a fine gourmand. Oshun is well loved by her devotees all over the world. According to the Yoruba elders, Oshun is the “unseen mother present at every gathering,” because, in Yoruba, Oshun is the cosmological forces of water, moisture, and attraction. Therefore she is omnipresent and omnipotent just like the kitchen has long been assigned to the woman and is the central love of the home. This spice mix honors the memories of our culinary griots that journeyed with our heritage preserving, sharing it, allowing us and our traditions to continue to thrive.
Makes about 12 ounces
In the tradition of using what one has available, in Boston they have public orchards where you can pick fruit for free. Roxbury Russets are pretty ugly and because they are organic they are the farthest thing from looking like conventional fruit. They are great for cooking and I came up with this savory recipe to use up all my free apples I am able to forage. Chutney is original to India. I am Jamaican and seasonal chutneys are a great way to use of excess fruit and vegetables.
Makes 10 pints
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer until thick. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.
Toni Tipton Martin for her book“The Jemima Code,’’spoke to Edna Lewis at a food writer’s event and, while still in awe of her, steeled herself to tell her that she was not the only one. ‘‘I told her that I wanted to tell the world that there were more women like her than just her,’’ she said. A while later, Lewis sent her a letter, written on the same kind of yellow legal pad that she used to write ‘‘The Taste of Country Cooking.’’ ‘‘Leave no stone unturned to prove this point,’’ she wrote. ‘‘Make sure that you do.’’In that vein, support a black chef and their restaurant, buy a cookbook by an African American author, and purchase artisanal gifts that are delicious. Here is resource of selected edible treats to buy:
Ball’s Cajun Foods: Ball’s Creole Seasoning Company is one of the largest black owned processed seasoning manufacturers in the south. The company was founded by Reginald McWilliams Ball, Sr. and make All-Purpose Cajun Seasoning, Cajun Rice and Jambalaya Mix, Crab boil, Cajun Gumbo and Sea-Food Fry Mix. Ball’s Cajun Foods
Bim’s Kitchen: We are a small family business and all our products are made to our own original recipes All our products are made in small batches and use exotic ingredients native to or commonly used in Africa like baobab fruit, coconut, alligator pepper, cubeb pepper, peanuts, cashew nuts, hibiscus flowers, birdseye chillies and tamarind. These are turned into very tasty, versatile and easy to use products like curries, hot sauces, marinades and condiments. Bim’s Kitchen
Chef Amadeus: Come Have A Bumpin’ Good Time with Chef Amadeus. Winner of Food Network’s Extreme Chef Mexican Showdown. His love for food was cultivated by his Puerto Rican grandmother and Philadelphia-born mother. ChefAmadeus.com/order-spices/
Chef Belinda’s Spices: Chef Belinda Spices are blended from select, quality ingredients and provide consistent flavor — time after time! Gluten free. No preservatives. Chef Belinda Spices
Coco Brown Sauces: Coco Browns is a family owned and operated business. The owners, Michael & Jennifer Movery opened their 1st coffee shop in 2005, in Ocho Rios Jamaica. In 2007 they started making their own scotch bonnet sauce from their kitchen to the table. Customers loved the sauce and were soon able to take some home to “lively up yuh food”. Coco Brown Sauces
The Craic and Blonde: Pikliz is a traditional Haitian condiment that is mouthwatering and robust in heat + flavor, awakening nearly all your senses. It’s the perfect Haitian accent to every savory dish, no matter the culture it belongs to. The Craic and Blonde
Ivyees Honey: Ivyees Jamaican Honey is a fully integrated honey producer that begins the process of farming its own bees in its own hives on the island of Jamaica. From this operation, it produces 3 to 4 distinctive flavor varieties of all-natural organic honey available for sale to select premium organic grocery retailers. Jamaica’s mineral rich bauxite soil permits us to grow unique tropical vegetation that honeybees love to pollinate. Logwood Company.com
Keith Lorren Spices: Keith Lorren is a Florida-based spice designer and manufacturer that has traveled around the world and developed unique, delicious soul food recipes that draw people together around the dinner table. His unique line of seasonings and rubs are hand-crafted and low in sodium. Keith Lorren
Chef Kenny’s Spice Blends: Cooking since he could barely reach the kitchen counter at age three, Chef Kenny Gilbert is best known for his appearance on “Top Chef” Season seven, where he displayed big personality and instantly become one of the most likable cheftestants to date. Chef Kenny Gilbert
Ken Davis BBQ: This Minnesota-based company was founded by jazz bassist and entrepreneur Ken Davis who began by opening a restaurant in the 60’s. Everyone loved his barbecue sauce, but it wasn’t until 1970 that he bottled it and sold it to supermarkets. Get a variety of sauces straight to your door. Kendavis-BBQ
Lyndigo Spice: A maker of chutney, relishes, and other condiments. “I consider chutney a savory relish. Whether you use fruit or vegetables, it’s the combination of onions, vinegar or citrus juice, Caribbean and Indian spices that make it savory.” – Celeste Lyndigo Spice
Mariah’s Relish: Named Mariah, because of the connection to our family, beginning with our great-great grandmother, Chow Chow is a southern-style cabbage and green tomato relish. Often used as a flavor enhancer and a condiment and great on sausage, hot dogs, on cream cheese, mixed in potato salad among many other uses. Mariah’s ChowChow
Momma Vi’s Vibrant Seasoning: Based in Philadelphia, developed and produce a variety of 100% natural artisan-blend gourmet seasonings using the finest herbs and spices, so that anyone in our fast-paced world can easily and effortlessly prepare delicious homemade cuisine that is healthy, low sodium and unites families through fun and creative cooking. Momma Vi
Walkerswood: Tucked away in the hills of St. Ann, Jamaica – Walkerswood Caribbean Foods has worked to bring a taste of the Caribbean to the world with an innovative line of traditional seasonings, cooking sauces, spices, preserves and canned vegetables.
Registered in 1978, the company started life as part of a rural community’s effort to create employment for its people. We now have full time staff of over 80. With the growing demand for spicy food, WALKERSWOOD developed its own Jerk Seasoning and was the first company to export Jerk Seasoning from Jamaica. Since then our range of products has grown to over 15 and includes popular Jerk BBQ Sauce, Jonkanoo Hot Pepper sauce as well as Ackee for Jamaica’s National dish. These products have brought ease and convenience to preparing tasty Caribbean meals. Walker’s Wood.com