Friday, February 24, 2006

I'd like to know why you think African, especially Sub-Saharan African, cooking has historically been so devalued and ignored by the West, especially the U.S.? I have my own ideas, which I'll share later, but I'd like to know what people think. Is it simply ignorance, a result of media (e.g., images of the "dark continent") and racism, or what? Most of the writing on African food relates more to food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty, unfair markets and export crop issues, than to African cuisine and gastronomy.

6 comments:

pupi said...

I think it is ignorance. There haven't been enough African restaurants to make the food popular. Most of what it shown on TV does not reflect the cuisine. However this is all changing thanks to efforts be several Africans who have taken this challenge to make African cuisine popular.

www.ultimateseasonings.com
www.flavorsofafrica.com

These companies manufacture and Market African food products to mainstream supermarkets. Their products can be found in supermarkets such as kroger, wholefoods, shoppers etc.

Luisa said...

Ignorance is absolutely part of the equation. There is more to this than lack of exposure. Africa is the 'cradle of civilization' which encompasses both the progression of societies including infrastructures (social, political, agricultural, taxation, mathematical, law) and the more primal or natural side of our being. My theory is that we as a collective world society have spent the last eight hundred + years (dark ages onward)tryng to extricate ourselves from our more emotional, natural, feminine, 'dark' side. I think the West is scared of the strong spritual and emotional connections that Africa still embodies and therefore *we* as Westerns embody despite our denial and embracing of "The rational", science based thinking. The lack of exposure towards African foods is one illustration of our lack of *sight* or 'gaze' (in anthropological and philosophical terms) towards this.
If you have not guessed yet, I am an anthropologist who lives in CA yet lived and worked abroad for many years.

Luisa said...

I meant a 'Western' society, sorry about that slip!

Max said...

Exciting stuff. I am a Ghananian based in London who found this stuff whiles researching for a product called Afrobio that is about to launch. They are going to based on organic ingredients with an African leaning on flavour. As an African in the West, I think the time is come for people to know more about the taste of Africa which of course you are a number 1 advocate Keep up the good work and God bless you.

Frank said...

I think it can be argued that sub-Saharan African cuisine has not been "devalued and ignored by the West". Most of the West, especially the U.S., does know quite a lot about sub-Saharan African cuisine. Not sub-Saharan African cuisine per se, but rather sub-Saharan African cuisine in the form of African-American cuisine.

Okay, that's a dodge. To get to the real question.

It's too easy to say it's "ignorance". Sure, but why? One reason is that few Americans travel to Africa (compared to the number that travel to Europe).

The rest of the world doesn't get much from Africa. France gives us wine. Germany gives us Mercedes. Japan gives us everything from Sony. Maybe trade in those things paves the way for cultural exchange. What (besides raw materials) comes from Africa?

Fran said...

The world doesn't get much from Africa? What about music, art,food, fashion and culture (not to mention world class soccer playing)? Where do you think Picasso got his ideas? Where are the roots of gospel and jazz? What about Soyinka and Achebe? Kente cloth? And, sorry, African cuisine is much more than okra and greens and black-eyed peas and grits. Incidentally, even if it was originally via French Huguenots, (southern) Africa has a vibrant wine industry, too. Not to mention rooibos (redbush), coffee, cola (as in coca-cola), hoodia, and shea nuts. And it was African slaves who taught their owners how to grow "Carolina gold" rice.