Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine

Article excerpt

Stirring the Pot: a history of African cuisine, by James C. McCann. London: Hurst, 2010. xiv + 214pp. ISBN (hardbk) 978-1-84904-035-8, £45, (pbk) 978-184904-036-5. £14.99.

This book begins with an epigraph from Felipe Fernández-Armesto. "Culture began when the raw got cooked" and a mouth watering description of a feast prepared by Queen Taytu Bitul of Ethiopia in 1887 (described and analysed in detail in Chapter 3). The reader is already enticed into this study of food and cuisine across Africa and across the centuries, with the emphasis on food as a marker of cultural identity. The book moves from an overview of basic ingrethents to a focus on food and national identity in Ethiopia across five centuries from 1500, with the intriguing suggestion that "perhaps Menelik's conquests were more about taste and spice than territory" (p. 74). It widens out again to look at West Africa and the central and southern African maize belt and maritime coasts. Finally, McCann traces the diffusion of African traditions through the Slave Trade and the Diaspora and African influence on European and North American foodways. He points out (p. 174) that since the 1970s the number of African migrants to North America has surpassed the number who arrived though the Slave Trade. Ethiopian restaurants, in particular, have become very popular in the US although traditional cuisine has been subtly modified in the process for example by the introduction of 'desserts' to the menu. …

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