A cultural reinvigoration

 Fonio pilaf

At restaurants and in kitchens across the United States, a new generation of black chefs and cookbook authors is "reinventing, reinterpreting and reinvigorating what's thought of as African-American food." The New York Times explores the current enhanced period of culinary development in African-American cooking that has been  building momentum for years.

While the phenomenon is spread over the entire country, the article notes that it is especially visible on the West Coast, where "age-old conventions of soul food and Lowcountry cooking are getting a fresh take via farm-to-table philosophy and contemporary technique." Chefs across the nation are creating menus that pay tribute to the food of the African diaspora, like Mashama Bailey of the Grey in Savannah, Georgia. The Grey is a restaurant that was built from the ruins of a once-segregated bus station, and Chef Bailey has dug into old cookbooks, adding her own personal touches to the classic recipes. For example, Bailey places eggplant at the center of a peanut stew whose prototype is found in West Africa.

More chefs are finding similar ways to reclaim and express a  rich cultural history. "Thanks to the writings of authors like Jessica Harris, the myth of Africa as a land of scarcity, with no real cuisine, is being gradually dispelled in African-American communities," said Pierre Thiam, an African-born chef and the author of a recent cookbook called Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl. The article explores this and other recent books like The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin, which examines scores of African-American cookbooks from across the decades, shedding light on how the contributions of black cooks were often dismissed. 

Photo of Fonio pilaf with dates, carrots, and peanuts from Saveur Magazine by Pierre Thiam

1 Comment

  • ellabee  on  1/26/2016 at 10:08 PM

    What timing! Pierre Thiam's Senegal has just been indexed and sent for review.

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