Friday, September 05, 2008

Africa Cookbook Project Update

The Africa Cookbook Project has 3 new cookbooks. First, thank you to Ghanaian Charles Cann for a copy of his 2007 Tropical Ghana Delights. This brief 39-page paperback with lovely colorful photos and a matching breezy style contains a couple dozen recipes heavily infused with tropical fruits, from snacks and main dishes to sweets. (Charles, I was surprised not to see any tropical fruit smoothies in the book! I hope that's in the pipeline--Ghanaians generally seem to bond with them from the first taste). Charles' is not a book of traditional Ghanaian recipes: even his light soup recipe includes cucumber, cauliflower, fresh basil and carrots. Rather, it's what I like to think of as "second-" or even "third-" generation Ghanaian cooking. Like Marcus Samuelson, he's taken some basic flavor combinations and ingredients, and creatively added and mixed them up to suit himself. I'll soon be trying them out and reporting back. I must caution that while I love fresh fruits, I generally don't care for adding sugar or honey or sweet fruits to savory dishes. Of course, that doesn't always hold: I do love mango salsa, and sweet ripe plantains with savory stews.

Secondly, after having a pleasant meal at a restaurant in Osu (my filing system is still disorganized, but think the name of the restaurant proprietoress, was Amelia Longdon, of Kalibre Catering Services), Amelia (?) showed me a book she'd recently picked up on the streets, called Recipe Book for All (Catering), an unpretentious but recipe-packed book by Vivian Ofori, apparently in its 2nd edition. I kept my eyes open and eventually found a copy for sale myself. It is a soft-cover 64-page book. The first part is devoted to recipes combining both traditional Ghanaian recipes (like jollof rice, ofam, and abolo), and "continental" recipes for things like pizza, spaghetti, and mayonnaise. These are bare-boned recipes with few explanations but designed for experienced cooks or caterers and using measurement mostly by weight. I counted just over 100 recipes. The book is divided into 2 sections, the first part the basic recipes and some general catering information; the second focused on the basics of nutrition, and including a number of recipes using soy beans and a lengthy section on moringa leaves and pods (Ms. Ofori explains moringa is called zogala or zogalagondi in Hausa, yevu-ti in Ewe, baganlua by Dagombas; ewe ile or idagbo monoye by the Yoruba and ikwe oyibo by the Ibos of Nigeria, and ben aile or boenzolive in French.)

Finally, shortly before I left I discovered the delightful Akwaaba Beach Guest House owned and operated by Swiss innkeeper Helene J├Ąger. Helene has a lovely collection of African cookbooks, but one that caught my eye, and that I'd not seen before was Our Favourite Recipes: From around the world. This is a wonderful collection of recipes put together creatively and deliciously by the Ghana International Women's Club in 1999. It is truly an international collection, with recipes from The Netherlands, the U.K., Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Belgium, India, Switzerland, Korea, Israel, Malta, Hungary, Trinidad, the U.S.A., France, as well as a good selection from Ghana, and other African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Egypt. There was no time to photocopy the book, so I photographed all 95 pages and printed them out when I returned to Pennsylvania. Now I'm going working on completing the data base of the volumes of the project.

Please continue to keep informing me about other resources. Thank you Emeka, about telling me about the June 29 posting on Field to Feast about the Babula Cooking III booklet put together by missionaries in Zaire (as a survival guide using local ingredients). I'd love to get a copy for the collection. That kind of book is also important as social history.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Africa Cookbook Project Update 3

I promised to let people know what's happening on the Africa Cookbook Project. First of all, I'm getting ready to move to Brazil in a week for 5 months, followed by 6 months in Ghana, which will slow me down with the database, but the project is moving forward. Devra Moehler has just e-mailed that she's sending a Ugandan cookbook, and Paola Roletta, the author of a Mozambican cookbook published by Europa-America in 2004 (Cozinha tradicional de Mozambique) wrote to let me know of her work. Actually, Europa-America has published cookbooks on cuisines of Angola, Cape Verde, and Morocco as well, all in Portuguese. I'd love to have them in the collection if someone would like to donate copies (remember, there is no budget for this project!) Also, people from around the globe are talking about the project, teaching me about their cuisines, even collecting recipes for me (maybe there's another book in all of this?) Though I'll be away, books can still be sent to the BETUMI mailbox: BETUMI/P. O. Box 222/State College, PA 16804 USA.

I'll soon post information about a few of the culinary entrepreneurs I met on my recent trip to Ghana, including a shito maker, a scientist, and a store owner.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Africa Cookbook Project Update and Auntie Sika

On the left is the latest cookbook to come to the collection (thank you TEDGLOBAL fellow Issa Diabate), and below is the first African cookbook I ever received, in 1971, from my sister-in-law-to-be. I know I'm repeating myself, but thank you to everyone who is helping spread the word. Also, thank you to Tom and Barbara Hale of Penn State University, who have promised to donate from their collection when I return to Pennsylvania. By the way, there's no reason that the culinary heritage should exclude other types of culinary work, from videos to articles.

Secondly, included here is the brief interview with Barbara Baeta that I promised to post. It is preceded by a few minutes of introduction.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Africa Cookbook Project Launched at TEDGLOBAL

Africa Cookbook Project
Originally uploaded by betumi

At TEDGLOBAL in Arusha, Tanzania in June, 2007, we launched the "Africa Cookbook Project," whose goal is to archive African culinary writing and make it widely available on the continent and beyond. A database is being developed and copies of hundreds of cookbooks are already being catalogued at BETUMI: The African Culinary Network. Google has offered assistance in eventually digitizing some of the information.

The enthusiasm and tangible support both at and after the conference is wonderful. Issa Diabate has already e-mailed that he's sending an Ivorian book, Dominique Bikaba that he's searching for one from DRC, and Jens Martin Skibsted has scanned the covers of several books in his collection. People have promised to send books from Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, etc. I'm thrilled that others recognize the urgent need to protect these books, whether for their value as a record of popular culture, social history, or, my specialty, culinary creativity.

In an all-too-typical experience, I visited the gift shop at Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge and asked if they had any Tanzanian cookbooks. The staff were sure no such books existed, and were excited and surprised when I showed them Sarakikya's book:
When I stopped in both gift shops at Kilimanjaro airport, they confidently showed me several glossy books published in Zanzibar like Safari Living, which showcased what I call "cuisine for Westerners," and were unable to produce a single "black Africa" cookbook. There's work to be done. Help spread the word, and also help us build up this data base and archive.

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