African and Aboriginal Cuisines

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 23

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In this episode we’re going to learn about the distinctive African foodways. These are food ecosystems that predated extensive outside contact. They encompass traditions such as rich stews and “fufu”  which is a starch-based porridge. We’ll talk about regional African eating rituals, and important indigenous foodstuffs. Then we’re going to travel  “down under” to review the surprising variety of Australian plant and animal species used in aboriginal cookery that have, unfortunately, never been adopted by European settlers.

Images for this Episode:

Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• Matooke and Luwombo

These two dishes are common in Uganda and go together so beautifully that it is well worth trying. Matooke is simply a small starchy banana that is steamed and mashed. You can substitute plantains, but a closer approximation can be found in African or even Southeast Asian groceries. For the luwombo, you will need to find banana leaves, which are sold frozen in Asian groceries. They serve as the steaming container as well as the plate. You can make this with any kind of meat, but goat is the richest.

Cut up the goat meat into large chunks, and season with salt and pepper. Crush a few handfuls of peanuts into a fine powder, and toss with the meat. Sprinkle with some chili flakes, some chopped onion, grated ginger, and a few chopped tomatoes. Place two or three banana leaves facing different directions down on the table, and put in a pile of the meat on top and then fold in the leaves to enclose. Tie securely with string. Make several bundles, one for each person. Then, make a fire, and surround with three bricks. Place a pot on the bricks over the fire, add a little water, and put in the banana leaf bundles. The wood fire and smoke really does make a difference to the flavor. Add water as needed, making sure the bundles don’t burn. Steam for at least two hours. Cut open the bundles from the top, folding down the leaves to create a kind of plate, and eat directly from the leaf with some matooke on the side.

Naturally, you use your fingers, of the right hand only.

Suggested Reading:

Carney, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World.

Harris, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America.

Opie, Hogs and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America.

Images courtesy of:

• Map of Africa: Shutterstock
• Fufu: Shutterstock
• Ugali: By Paresh Jai from Nairobi, Kenya CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Sukuma wiki: Shutterstock
• matoke: Shutterstock
• watermelon: Shutterstock
• Black-eyed peas: Shutterstock
• millet: Shutterstock
• Sorghum: Shutterstock
• Stewpot over rocks: Shutterstock
• plantain chips: Shutterstock
• Akara: Shutterstock
• Togbei: By Afrolems ; cropped by Off-shell CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Subsistence farming: Shutterstock
• Bushmeat: Shutterstock
• Mbuti peoples: By Martin Johnson (1884–1937) (The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Masai: Shutterstock
• Yam: Shutterstock
• Pounding yams: By Flixtey (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Teff: Shutterstock
• Inejira: By John Besi CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Okra: Shutterstock
• Baobab: Shutterstock
• Red Palm Oil: Shutterstock
• Palm wine: Shutterstock
• melegueta pepper: Shutterstock
• tamarinds: Shutterstock
• kola nuts: Shutterstock
• guinea fowl: Shutterstock
• White eggplants: Shutterstock
• Cassava: Shutterstock
• Olaudah Equiano: Daniel Orme [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Smoked Monkey: Shutterstock
• Map of Australia: Shutterstock
• Finger limes: Shutterstock
• Wattle seeds: Shutterstock
• Quandong: Shutterstock
• Macadamia: Shutterstock
• Moreton Bay chestnuts: Shutterstock
• witchety grubs: Shutterstock
• Kangaroos: Shutterstock
• Kangaroo meat: Shutterstock
• Wallaby: Shutterstock
• Emu: Shutterstock
• Banicoot: Shutterstock
• Goanna: Shutterstock
• ANZAC biscuit: Shutterstock
• Pavlova: Shutterstock
• Pie-floater: Shutterstock