Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How African Food Traditions Shaped American Cooking.

July 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, Money, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( American cuisine is as diverse as the history of the country. In every era, different dishes and food preparation methods are introduced and became part of the norm. With the arrival of European colonizers, new ingredients, spices and methods were added into the food culture of the people. Whereas the early Native Americans had similar practices as the Europeans in raising cattle and livestock for meat and clothing, the pre-colonial Americans had their own methods of cooking such as grilling, spit roasting, and boiling.

When the slave trade was introduced to the Americas, African slaves brought along with them their food, as they were not used to eating what the natives were eating. They brought along with them certain foods like okra, guinea corn, red peas, rice and many more. Initially, these crops were not available in America. What brought them here were not the slaves themselves, but their masters. The slaves weblackwoman-soulfood-2016re not used to eating the same food as the Native Americans or their European colonizers. So, their masters decided to send for seeds from Africa, so that the slaves can plant them and make their own food.

Later on, the slaves learned to improvise. The slave owners were feeding them with leftovers that did not satisfy their hunger, so they turned to various greens that they could find around them: kale, dandelion tops, collards, mustard and others. They invented recipes based on what ingredients were available. For their meat, they made use of the discarded parts, since they could not afford the usual, edible parts.

They developed recipes that included ox tripe, tail, intestines, pig’s ears, feet, and jowls, among others. They also used lots of onions, garlic, herbs to add flavor to their dishes. As more and more ingredients became available from the European traders, more and more dishes also evolved to become part of the typical slave household’s meals. Many of the slaves also engaged in fishing and hunting for wild game – opossums, squirrels, rabbits, turtles and raccoons were not uncommon then, even among the South African-American population.

Suffice it to say, the African slave immigrants were resourceful cooks. From the basic crops, left-overs, and available ingredients, they were able to come up with numerous dishes, some of which have made their way into the American tables. One such example of an exemplary cook was Emeline Jones, a servant who made her way up as a culinary genius. Her dishes have been hailed by none other than prestigious men in American history such as Presidents Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland.

These presidents were able to sample some of her dishes such as Lynnhaven oysters and crab salad, terrapin and canvasback duck, hominy cakes and several confection.  These dishes were served in New York clubs where Emeline Jones worked as a cook in the late 1870’s. Emeline Jones was among the many African servants who were able to influence the American taste with their wonderful kitchen concoctions.

Because of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, African influence was brought to the Americas and helped in shaping the nation’s culture in primarily through food and economy. When the slaves brought their rice grains with them, it brought rice into the American household. With the demand for rice, farmers later on learned to plant and harvest the crop on larger scales. Up until the present, North Carolina’s economy still relies heavily on their rice production. And jambalaya, hoppin’ johns, gombo or okra, and feijoada – dishes that originate from African countries Nigeria, Senegal, Benin and Guinea – are still among the favorite dishes of many American households.

Today, Americans have come to love these dishes with African roots and adopted them as part of American cuisine, just as the slaves have eventually become part of the American citizenry. A favorite food preparation method that began in pre-colonial times and persists up to the present is grilling. Burgers, steaks, and other meat and fish are cooked over direct heat in a grilling equipment, mostly done outdoors. To keep up with the American tradition of grilling the perfect steak, Fourth of July barbecue parties, and basically any get together with grilled meat, Grills Forever came up with the best smoker grills in the market. From electric smokers to charcoal smokers, we have every type of smoke griller to help you make your favorite grilled dishes.

Staff Writer; Geoff Fuller

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