Thursday, December 20, 2007

East and West African Food and Foodways

African food historians and scholars who are based in Africa can lead lonely lives. They need contact with and support of like-minded people. We need them to share their insights and publish their findings. I recently heard from Forka Leypey Mathew, in Yaounde, Cameroon, who has studied the social history of how traditional food preparation and eating patterns have changed among several groups in Cameroon, including the Bakweri (occupants of Buea and Limbe), Mbo (occupants of Melong, Santchou, Nkongsamba and other villages), Bamum (occupants of Foumban), Wawa (occupants of Banyo), Doowaayo (occupants of Poli), Guidar (occupants of Guider) and Kotoko (occupants of Kousseri and the entire Cameroon section of the Lake Chad Basin). Matew ( welcomes correspondence with others who share similar interests.

Scholars outside of Africa are also doing exciting things. In 2006, Verena Raschke completed her doctoral work cojointly at the University of Vienna in Austria and Monash University in Australia, studying traditional East African food habits and their health benefits, and has made quite a bit of information available online. She's also been actively publishing the results of her research. For example:

1. Raschke V, Cheema B. Colonization, the New World Order and the Eradication of Traditional Food Habits in East Africa: Historical Perspective on the Nutrition Transition. Public Health Nutrition, in press, 2007

2. Raschke V, Oltersdorf U, Elmadfa I, Wahlqvist M, Cheema B, Kouris-Blazos A. Investigation of the Dietary Intake and Health Status in East Africa in the 1960s: A Systematic Review of the Historic Oltersdorf Collection. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, in press, 2007

3. Raschke V, Oltersdorf U, Elmadfa I, Wahlqvist M, Cheema B, Kouris-Blazos A. Content of a novel online collection of traditional east African food habits (1930s-1960s): Data collected by the Max-Planck-Nutrition Research Unit, Bumbuli, Tanzania. Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16:140-51, 2007

4. Raschke V, Oltersdorf U, Elmadfa I, Wahlqvist M, Cheema B, Kouris-Blazos A. The need for an online collection of traditional African food habits. African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND Online), 7(1), 2007; Available at:

5. Raschke V, East African Food Habits On-line. In: Wahlqvist ML. Healthy Eating Club. Melbourne, HEC Press. Web-site:; 2005

Let's continue to identify and promote those who take African cuisine and food history seriously!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tapioca Project and Cooking Contest

This week in Rio has been filled with fantastic opportunities to get to know Teresa Corção and Margarida Nogueira and their Manioc Project. The day after arriving I had the great good fortune to attend the 3rd “tapioca cooking contest” (a light, magical cassava “pancake” cooked without oil) held as part of their work with children, especially those from the favelas:

Their project has been so enthusiastically received by the children and the schools that Teresa and Margarida now have a bigger dream: to expand “Projeto Mandioca” to other cities and states in Brazil, beginning with São Paulo. They plan to develop materials to train and equip teams of qualified volunteers to duplicate and replicate the projects on a wide scale. Already they’ve worked in 6 schools and reached at least a thousand children. These dream-makers deserve our support and encouragement. Read (in Portuguese) more about the foundation they have just established, the
Instituto Maniva, to make it possible.

How does this relate to Africa? Teresa and Margarida are acting locally, but they are definitely thinking globally. They want to see the love of and respect for manioc (e.g., cassava) spread everywhere, moving beyond Brazil to Africa. After all, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of manioc (cassava), and it was Nigerian poet Flora Nwapa who wrote the ode to cassava, Cassava Song and Rice Song. Let’s join them and dream together.

Another joy in Rio was to eat at O Navegador, Teresa’s world class restaurant (with its incredible organic salad bar ,".org") where I enjoyed a highly sophisticated version of a tapioca pancake with black sesame seeds and rock salt (and filled with bobo de camarão, a cassava puree with coconut milk, red palm oil, and shrimp, along with a little cilantro, onions, etc., and garnished with a sauce made of cherry tomato and pimenta biquinho). They also served the best pão de queijo I’ve tasted in Brazil. Now I have all these wonderful cassava recipes I hope to adapt and introduce to Ghana in January!