|The BETUMI BLOG now replaces the journal (shown below), which was discontinued in February, 2006.
January 17, 2006: Here are a couple of pictures from Marrakech: me with Mohammed Nahir, a professor of American and English language and literature (my translator), and staff members from La Maison Arabe. My son, DK, served as photographer and fellow student. The delicous lamb couscous we prepared is in the picture at the top of the page. We prepared the couscous with cabbage, red pumpkin, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, chilli peppers, red onions, broad beans, zucchini, curcuma (like tumeric), fresh parsley and coriander, ginger powder, salt, black pepper, turnips, clarified butter, and nut oil. Of course, we served it in tagines. DK said it was the best couscous he’d ever tasted. Of course, an an architect, he was also fascinated by the lovely setting in which we took the class, including the herb gardens outside and the gracious arches and furnishings of the kitchen and surrounding area.
January 14, 2006: Happy 2006 everyone. I am sorry to say that once again hackers have attacked our discussion forum. It’s been going on for about 6 weeks now, and I’ve tried every way I can think of to stop them. Unfortunately, with my limited technical skills I do not seem to be able to keep them from registering their ridiculous names as “members” of the Forum, though I continue to go in daily and delete them. Most importantly, I’ve changed the discussion board so that all messages come to me to post on the site so I can screen out the false/offensive ones. There should be no more offensive messages on the board, and I hope you will feel free to e-mail your comments to me, Fran, at email@example.com. I’ll see that they’re posted. I am hopeful that with the new year we can make a fresh start on keeping in touch. Let me know if you have any other suggestions.
On a more exciting note, I had a wonderful time in Marrakech, Morocco, in December, and the food was fabulous. I spent a delightful morning at the kitchens of La Maison Arabe taking a private cooking class (couscous with lamb and seven vegetables), on a Friday, which seems to have been the day eeryone else was eating couscous. We feasted at Chez Ali and a number of other restaurants. Now, if I can just find some “non-instant” couscous in the U.S. to steam over my simmering stew. I carried a tajine back with me in my carry on luggage, along with a silver teapot and glasses for mint tea, and a lovely embossed tray. I’ll soon post some pictures from the class I took. They kept their recipe top secret, and I’m currently recreating and testing a version for my family members.
December 4, 2005: I hope everyone saw Robert Sietsema’s article “Foo-foo Fundamentals” in the October 2005 issue of Gourmet magazine featuring a review of West African restaurants in the U.S. Speaking of African food, the August issue of Saveur had an article called “Deep Roots” (on peanuts) that included an adaptation of Jessica Harris’ recipe for mafe from The African Cookbook. It’s so refreshing to see the growing recognition of Africa’s culinary riches. . . This week I’m heading for Marrakesh, Morocco for a week and am looking forward to sampling the delights of North African food: from touajan (the plural of tagine) to B’stilla, from mint tea and mezes to couscous and pastries made from warka, and all the wonderful spices and fruits. I’m open to any advice on where to go and what to see during my few days’ stay. I’ll let you know how it went when I return. . . .Oh, on December 1st columnist Nancy Ancrum, of the Miami Herald featured my book Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa in a piece called “Dishes as varied as Africa is large (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/13289783.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp).” I love how she started it: “Africa – – it’s a continent, stupid!”
October 19, 2005: It’s been a hectic 6 weeks since my last posting: my eldest daughter, Abena, had a formal Ghanaian engagement ceremony here in central Pennsylvania at the beginning of September, and the rest of the month and the first 2 weeks of October we were busy preparing for her wedding in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With the help of family and friends I put together a memory wedding quilt with squares from Ghana, France, the UK, and all over the U.S. from Oregon to New York. My new son-in-law is partial to kelewele and his mother paid homage to that (see the picture above), and another family member in Ghana did a lovely square of a woman pounding fufu. The snapshot here doesn’t truly capture the beautiful beadwork or the lovely kente on the figure. The wedding menu included, among other delicacies, ginger beer, black-eyed pea fritters (akara), fried ripe plantain, chichinga (lamb kebabs with a spicy peanut rub), and groundnut soup, along with coconut pineapple wedding cake. Mom (me) was very pleased with the job the caterer did.
Squeezed in those weeks, too, were a couple of author’s events, meetings, and a trip to Washington DC. The next 6 weeks include plans to work in earnest on the proposal for my next book (on the regional cooking of Ghana). I also expect to travel to Morocco in December.
Several people have mentioned that registering for the new Forum discussion board is a bit complicated and asked me to explain how the process works, so here’s a step-by-step guide: First click on the Forum tab at the top of this page. Under the page title “Betumi.com” there are a list of several topics in blue, one of which is labeled “register.” Click on that, and it will take you to a user’s agreement. If you agree with it, click on the print at the bottom of the page that applies to you (over or under 13 years old). The next page that appears asks you to fill in a form. Fill in the required registration information, but the other information below that is optional, including the preferences, then click on the “submit” button. If there is any problem, you will be directed to make corrections, otherwise you should receive a message that you’ve successfully been registered. Congratulations! Now just go to any of the threads that interest you and start typing. Hope to hear from you soon.
August 19, 2005: Last month I mentioned something exciting was going to happen. It has: BETUMI has just aired its first podcast, a 7-minute interview with Barbara Baeta of Flair Catering, discussing cassava (manioc) and its use in Ghanaian cooking. To check it out, go to the itunes podcast directory (or another directory), type in betumi, and follow the directions to subscribe to the free podcasts. Send a note to suggest topics of interest for future podcasts, or visit our discussion forum.
July 14, 2005: There are 2 exciting things happening right now, and another one on the horizon. First, Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa is now available, as indicated by the picture above and the press release and ordering information to the left. As you know, this book will only help Sub-Saharan African cuisine get the recognition it deserves if you check it out and tell others about it. I hope some of you will review it! And talk about it at the Forum. I especially look forward to corrections and updates where I got things wrong or left important things out. Secondly, we’ve finally found a way to make our discussion board user friendly. Please check the whole new system out. It’ll also be easier to connect with other folks in our on-line community. I’m eager to hear about other online resources, suppliers of special ingredients, etc. The third thing I’ll keep a secret for a few days until it’s actually happened. Check back soon.
June 30, 2005: I’ve just returned home from 2 months of traveling. May’s highlight was exploring Afro-Brazilian cuisine in Salvador (Bahia), Belo Horizonte and Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais), and Rio de Janeiro. The Portuguese and indigenous influences that worked their way back to Africa (such as corn and cassava and farofa-like gari) were fascinating, as were the influences going the other way (e.g., why dendê oil and coconut milk but not palm butter?). I sampled Cristina’s tasty acarajé (a deep-fried cowpea paste fritter split open and filled with shrimp and a pepper sauce), reportedly “the best in Salvador,” at Barraca de Cira, Praia de Itapoã. Acarajé is the descendant of West Africa’s akla (a.k.a. akara, accara, kosai, koose, kose). We also had abará, a version steamed in banana leaves that has to be related to Ghana’s tubaani or Nigeria’s moyin-moyin or elele. I’m especially indebted to Brazilian colleagues: fellow IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) member Margarida Nogueira in Rio, Dr. Ericivaldo Veiga de Jesus, from the Catholic University of São Paulo, nutritionist Vera Fontes in Belo Horizonte, and Patricia Soutto Mayor Assumpçao of Buffet Célia Soutto Mayor. Plus special thank yous for their warm hospitality and acting as translators and guides go to Virginia and Renato Ciminelli and their family, Monica Christina Teixeira, and Claudia Lima. Several people have suggested pursuing further research into these cultural and agricultural connections via three-way collaboration among researchers in Brazil (and/or other Latin countries), Africa, and the U.S. Much attention appears already devoted to the influences from Africa to Brazil and the diaspora. I am especially interested in pursuing things from the other direction. For example, I wonder how related central Africa’s batôn de manioc is to the processing of manioc by peoples in Amazonia, such as the Tupi-Guarani. Ditto for the fermenting of corn for Ghana’s kenkey or banku. Also, I’ve never eaten cassava chips in Ghana, but they’re a standard in Brazil. How do Brazil’s roughly 1600 species of cassava (manioc) compare to West Africa’s? Etc., etc., etc. Any ideas on how to pursue these interests? Get in touch.
April 12, 2005: The meeting with the Culinary Historians of New York in February was fun. We feasted on Ghanaian foods, washed down with Club and Star beer, along with bissap rouge (and some wines, too). I stocked up at fabulous Eddie’s Place African Market in the Bronyx (5 East, 167th St.), where it felt like I was back in Accra. I also picked up some gari at the West African Grocery at 535 8th Ave. Eva Forson, caterer and chef/owner of African Palava (www.africanpalava.com) helped out with some kenkey and akara (kose) and hot sauce.
In April I made a new friend: Sofia Mutize, visiting from Zimbabwe and Lesotho, who gave me a private cooking class in my home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any fresh pumpkin so we substituted butternut squash for our nhopi. We also made sadza (stiff white cornmeal porridge) and mupunga une dovi (that’s mashed rice with peanut butter). We would have made muboora une dovi (pumpkin leaves with peanut butter), but we couldn’t find pumpkin leaves, either. Best of all, though, we got to eat the results of our class when we finished (accompanied by some leftover bean stew from the refrigerator).
February 8, 2005 It’s Black History Month, and attention once again turns to Africa. Jonathan Kauffman, restaurant reviewer for the East Bay Express, recently interviewed me for a review of “Tropical Paradise,” Duke and Mary Nudanu’s new Ghanaian restaurant in Berkeley (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/issues/current/dining/index.html). It made me wish I was back in the Bay Area. . . Remember, as I mentioned in my last posting, I hope to see some of you in New York on February 17. Eva Forson, chef and owner of African Palava, is helping me out with kenkey and kose (akara), and Matilda Owusu-Apenten of State College is whipping up a batch of her special shito. My brother-in-law Kwaku will be there, and Wednesday is taking me around to pick up some Club or Star beer and gari, etc., etc., etc. We’ll sample several other dishes before my talk.
January 17, 2005 Greenwood Press says my Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa should be out by August 2005. I’m excited about that. Also, for any of you who live near New York City: I’ll be speaking to (and cooking for) the Culinary Historians of New York on February 17, 2005. It would be great if you (especially Africans!) could come out (for details see “events” http://www.culinaryhistoriansny.org/)
December 29, 2004 December has been a good month for my Africa cookbook collection. My husband brought me the English edition of Arab Cooking: Egypt – Maghreb from Cairo, published by Bonechi (Italy), and a trip to Powell’s in Portland Oregon resulted in Zimbabwean Naidu’s Cooking with Radha Naidu (published by Academic Books in Harare) and Coetzee’s classic Funa Food from Africa: Roots of traditional African food culture (Butterworth & Co.in South Africa). I also picked up a 3rd edition of Kittler and Sucher’s excellent Food and Culture (with a section on Africa), and saw a copy of a book my husband’s cousin brought me from Malawi (The Malawi Cookbook, published in Blantyre in 1999).It wouldn’t surprise me to discover I have the best sub-Saharan Africa cookbook collection in the U.S. (The only serious contender might be Michigan State University, which I understand has expanded its African American food and culture collection to provide a strong African component.)
July 22, 2004 Please note that a password and user id is now required to get access to the discussion board. All old postings are removed, at least for now, since there were so many automated obscene messages and links. I trust we can now get back to our discussions.
May 17, 2004 It’s been months since my last entry. I’m in the throes of completing a book on food culture of sub-Saharan Africa and also spent 5 weeks recently in Ghana collaborating with Barbara Baeta on a regional Ghanaian cookbook (The Good Soup Comes from the Good Earth), so things have been hectic. I’m compelled to write today to apologize for all the junk on the forum board. It’s been deluged with hundreds of obscene spam e-mails daily that I keep trying to delete so the board is usable and decent, but I’m barely able to keep up with the automated posts. If this continues, I may have to disable the board. Any advice?
8/2/03 Last March while in the Washington DC area I checked out a new African restaurant, Wazuri [a Swahili word that translates to “beautiful people”]. Kojo Davis (originally from Ghana, with stops along the way in Togo, Senegal, Guinea, and France), worked at the well-known Bukom Café for about a decade before he and his wife opened Wazuri in March of 2002. Our competent waiter Djenne (just like the city) Tidiani was from Mali, and chef Daniel Labonne originally from Martinique. Wazuri’s food focus is broad and extends beyond Africa to dishes influenced by the Diaspora. I was immediately attracted to their Ghanaian and Senegalese offerings. Unlike Bukom’s menu, we did not find kenkey or gari dishes, but I did enjoy a sophisticated version of an Ewe soup, fetri detsi (or dessi), and, the Senegalese standby mafe. My two teenage nephews, newly arrived from Ghana, were happy with their jollof rice and tilapia. The food was tasteful, the presentation commendable, and the ambience colorful and cheerful. One word of warning, however: Wazuri is not a chop bar, and the food is priced accordingly.
3/7/03 My spouse just returned from a trip to Addis Ababa. He carried back two cookbooks: a 1995 one in Amharic, though it has hand written on the cover “Ethiopian Culture Food Arrangement by Debrewerk Abata (woman).” The other, ironically, was published in Virginia in 1993 by “Ethiopian Cookbook Enterprises.” I hadn’t seen it before, but highly recommend it:
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking: Society, Culture, Hospitality & Traditions. Its 178 recipes were compiled and edited by Daniel J. Mesfin. The illustrated book helpfully comments on Ethiopian culture and history, plus includes a scholarly section on Ethiopian food composition tables.It appears from checking the Web that original hardback and paperback versions came out in 1987, and the book was expanded in 1990, with this “enlarged version” published in December 1993.
2/11/03 A week ago I found myself in New York City, and my daughter Masi and I stopped by Awash restaurant for an Ethiopian meal. See my Article in the Library.
1/28/03 Finally! Three months short of its 6th birthday, “Ananse’s Web: The African Culinary Network” has a new name and a sleek new design. Our mission remains unchanged: to be a home for African cuisine on the Web, and a place to gather and share information. However, “Ananse’s Kitchen” is today renamed “The Forum,” and there has been a thorough reorganization and updating of the content throughout the site.
New friends, welcome. Old friends, please stop by and check out our changes. To all of you who are part of newly established sites relating to African cuisine, a very special welcome. There is an Ewe proverb that says “Knowledge is like a baobab tree. One person’s hands cannot go round it.” We all have something to contribute.
There is also a kind of power known in Twi as “tumi.” It means “power” in the sense of “the ability to do” rather than the more common sense of power as the ability to force others to do something. “Tumi” power is kind of the “concentration of ability.” We are not in competition: all of us furthering the cause of the African culinary knowledge base are “pulling together” to concentrate our ability. As this site’s name says, “betumi.” We can do it.