Friday, January 30, 2009

BETUMIblog in top 100; May Panel on African Cuisine/Foodways/Food History

I received word today that BETUMIblog has been listed as one of the 100 Best Blogs for Learning About Africa. It's thrilling to be included in this impressive list.

Also, I just realized I never mentioned here a special panel being organized on African cuisine/foodways/food history at this year's annual joint meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS) to be held at Penn State University (Pennsylvania, United States) May 28-31. While abstracts for the conference are due February 2, 2009, it is possible to consider those arriving within a few days of the deadline--just let me know to expect it. More information about the conference and submission procedures are available at Please forward abstracts for consideration to Fran Osseo-Asare . This is a wonderful, all-too-rare opportunity for us to have some face-to-face conversations, and folks from as far away as the U.K. and Cameroon are making plans to attend.


"Eating African: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on African cuisines"

Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, has long been marginalized in world culinary literature. There have been few positive attempts to approach African food culture from a "culinary" perspective. This session will broaden the topic of "food in Africa" beyond questions of food insecurity, failing markets, poverty and health deficits to consider African food in the arts, history, popular culture, and gastronomy.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to, changes in diet or food processing technologies, food and national or ethnic identities, food as portrayed in popular culture or literature or other media, dining etiquette and utensils, or the history and role of specific ingredients, “classic dishes,” or flavor principles.

Abstracts which can not be included in this special session will be forwarded to the conference program organizer as general conference abstract submissions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


African food historians (historiographers?), I just discovered a great resource. In 2005, the School of Humanities of the University of Western Australia archived an African food-themed issue (Number 15, September 2000) of Mots Pluriels, an online journal published from 1996 to 2003. Joan Wardrop was the guest editor for this issue of the bilingual journal (French and English), and it includes some terrific articles on African food culture, food in literature, and food and identity, as well as the politics of food. I'm now working my way through them, which include, among others:

Eating raw nothing, committing suicide: The politics and semiotics of food culture by Obododimma Oha

Nourriture et identification sociale au Nigéria de Françoise Ugochukwu

Talking food: a conversation about Zimbabwe, cooking, eating, and social living by Gertie Bonzo, Norma Kitson and Joan Wardrop

We eat out of the same pot: Poison, Food and Power in colonial Libreville c.1865-1921 by Jeremy Rich

"La vie est belle": Everyday life under Article 15 by Janice Spleth

Tropismes alimentaires dans "Enfance" de Nathalie Sarraute d'Hélène Jaccomard

Survie et création: la nourriture dans les contes louisianais et martiniquais de Valérie Loichot

La femme et la nourriture dans l'oeuvre de Gérard Etienne d'Isabelle Gros

Les gargotes de la liberté de Germain Sylaï Gotto, David Ndachi Tagne, Pierre Barrot et Jacques Douti Soutou

L'amour entre par la cuisine Une nouvelle de Kesney Mikolo (Congo)

L'estude de Gargantua, selon la discipline de ses precepteurs sorbonagres de François Rabelais

L'Afrique côté cuisines. Regards africains sur l'alimentation. Compte rendu de Jean-Marie Volet

I only wish I could read French better! Be sure to check this archive out now, in case it disappears in the near future. The archived issue also links to Safundi, the online journal that in 2000 published and now sells a classic article that helped me make sense of the historical treatment of African cuisine, Lynne Huston's "Serpent's Teeth in the Kitchen of Meaning: A Theory of South African Culinary Historiography.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ravitoto manioc conception

My daughter Abena delighted me in December with multiple Christmas gifts from Madagascar, including this t-shirt emblazoned with "Ravitoto manioc conception," which apparently is a favorite Malagasy dish--a meat stew (especially pork) made with manioc (cassava) greens.

Sorry, I've already eaten my fabulous dark chocolate (Robert Chocolat Noir Spécial) bar so I can't show that. It looks like it was made from chocolate from Madagascar in Antananarivo for "Chocolaterie Robert S. A." (South Africa?)

She also collected 5 new cookbooks for the Africa Cookbook Project on her travels. Two of them are totally in Malagasy (Inona no masaka? vols. 1 and 2), one is both in French and "Malgache" (Cuisine Malgache/Cuisine Creole), another is in French (La Cuisine de Madagascar), and the final one, a book on tropical fruits published in France (okay, so maybe it doesn't technically qualify for the Africa Cookbook Project), is also in French (Les Fruits Tropicaux). Now I'm struggling with online dictionaries to understand the Malagasy. Can anyone recommend an English-Malagasy dictionary to me?

She also brought me samples of spices from there, including vanilla, cloves, pepercorns, cinnamon, ginger, etc. Just looking at them helps me forget the ice and snow outside my window. Abena knew the best way to get me to put Madagascar on my "must see" list was to give me a hint of the food there. It worked.