Before eating, open thy mouth - Mauritania Proverb
The best part of holiday family gatherings is undoubtedly the food, regardless of the nature of the celebrations. Christmas dinners, Kwanzaa, and New Year gatherings are times when food traditions usually touch back to Africa. Sweet potato pie the All African American comfort food, is said to have originated in the Southern United States by George Washington Carver - a man who apparently found over 100 uses for sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes, however, can be traced back as an important staple in the West African diet. Hoppin' John, aka black-eyed peas and rice, must be consumed at the start of a new year to ward off bad luck, and a hearty pot of collard greens will set you up for health and prosperity in the year ahead.
If you joined millions of viewers this past spring, the Netflix docuseries High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, you may have made note of the importance of yam, rice, and okra in the African American food traditions. And while these staples are found on tables throughout the year, they are made abundant and cooked to perfection for the holiday season.
For your holiday menu-making, here are a few older resources for recipes, made with generational love to pass down to family cooks:
Kwanzaa - An African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking - Amazon
Five Reasons You Should Eat More Plantain - Foodsfromafrica.com
Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine - Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family - Amazon
And if you really want to dig deep into recipes as codes in African American traditions, check out The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin. It's a masterful annotated bibliography of fascinating African American food history, accompanied by a blog and pop-up events.