Food, Community & Government

Africa’s Culinary Contributions

Michael W. Twitty

Lesson time 10:34 min

Many typical dishes from countries all over the world have roots in Africa. Michael traces back a few well-known dishes to Africa and talks about the cultural roots of what is commonly referred to as “Southern hospitality.”

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Topics include: The Roots of Southern Hospitality • African Family Food Tree


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Some people don't understand what African or African Atlantic foodways is. You know, quite frankly, in contemporary North America, the United States, we're just beginning to see Ghanaian restaurants. We're just beginning to see Nigerian restaurants. We've formerly only had Ethiopian restaurants, which isn't even the part of Africa where the majority of our ancestors came from. It's hard for people to put their finger on, what is African food? And that's-- and that's silly, because you know something? On the one hand, we know what we mean by African or African diaspora or Afro-Atlantic or African Atlantic. But for other people, it's literally Africa, as if someone-- the reverse might be, I want some European food. How does that sound? Africa has more countries. It has more ethnic groups. It has more languages. And let's just be real about it-- it has a longer human history than any other continent on Earth. So when say African food, that's a really bland, vague, and vapid title for something that's really as specific as an ethnic group that lives in one spot, or an ethnic group that lives in 20 countries. When it comes to the matter of Southern food, I think there are people who, you know, you might know them, who-- they may not like us, but they like our food. They don't even know. I mean, a couple of years ago, the United Klans of America had a massive rally in North Carolina. Why did they go to a Black restaurant to get all the food for it? We've been making their food for 400 years, so I guess-- I guess they don't know the difference. So it's very difficult to sort of tease out what from what. Well, for example, Louisiana. The French have gotten extraordinary credit for foods that have nothing to do with them. For example, the gumbo-- the name literally comes from Kimbundu. [SPEAKING KIMBUNDU] is a word for okra in Angola. What does some type of gumbo have in it? Okra. But you still have books that are out there that claim that gumbo comes from bouillabaisse. If you've been to France, and you really are the gourmet you say you are, you know that bouillabaisse don't look nothing like, don't taste nothing like, no gumbo. For real. Thiebou niebe. Thiebou niebe literally means rice and cow peas, black-eyed peas, which is the same food as Hoppin' John in South Carolina. And you have the same kind of food found in parts of Brazil and Latin America. And it's also called jambalaya congri in old New Orleans. We can talk about feijoada in Brazil, black beans and rice, we can talk about moros y cristianos in Cuba, we can talk about arroz and gandules in Puerto Rico-- the same principle of legume plus rice. But you know the difference? In Cuba and Brazil and Puerto Rico, there may be issues regarding race that go deep, that have been there for centuries, but nobody in those countries would ever claim that Africa ain't the mama. It's only in America, where we still are wrestling with every aspect...

About the Instructor

Through years of unearthing his African American heritage, bestselling author of The Cooking Gene Michael W. Twitty discovered undeniable ties between his ancestors’ past and his own palate. Now he’s teaching how you can get a taste of your family history through food. Explore the migrations that informed the ingredients in your kitchen—then re-create the dishes that helped shape who you are.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Michael W. Twitty

James Beard Award–winning author of The Cooking Gene teaches how to trace your culinary roots through the food your ancestors ate.

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