West african food and culture



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WEST AFRICAN FOOD AND CULTURE

By Lauri Dahl

West Africa has a long history of contact with Europeans and it is also the most populated area in Africa today. Some of the countries that make up West Africa are; Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Dahomey, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon.

West Africa is also the origin of the millions of slaves forced to come to America, the Caribbean Islands, and South America. Because of this, West African foods are currently common to many parts of the United States. As the slave trade brought people from West Africa to the Americas the tastes and cooking methods came with them. For example, the rice dish called Hoppin’ John or red rice that is popular in Georgia and South Carolina came from the West African recipe Jollo Rice. The combination of black-eyed peas, plantains, yams, peanuts, and rice were new to the Europeans who populated Colonial America, but are now quite common. Many Southern foods like coarse leafy greens dripping with bacon, okra gumbo, yams, and rice dishes along with methods of cooking, such as grilling meats and fish can be traced back to slaves from West Africa.


Most of West Africa’s population is rural and their diet is influenced by the farming techniques specific to their geographic area. A staple to families with cows or goats would include milk and curds and whey. To most West Africans, foods like yams, corn, cassava, rice, and groundnuts are indispensable in their diet. Other common foods are green vegetables, dried peas, pumpkin, squash, eggplants, okra, garlic, and tomatoes. A few common dishes in West Africa are gari and fufu. Gari is made from fermented cassava flour and fufu is made from yams and plantains. Fufu is traditionally pounded into a thick porridge using a mortar and pestle and served with a variety of spicy sauces. Today some West Africans use a food processor to make fufu and then fry the porridge in oil to make fritters.


From: w:en:Image:Fufuprep.jpg Young women in preparing manioc bread or Fufu. Own work - photo made by Bob Walker in Democratic Republic of Congo, 1988.




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