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lindagray

African influence

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Scholars have noted the substantial African influence found in soul food recipes, especially from the West and Central regions of Africa. This influence can be seen through the heat level of many soul food dishes, as well as many ingredients found within them. Peppers used to add spice to food included malagueta pepper, as well as peppers native to the western hemisphere such as red (cayenne) peppers. Several foods that are essential in southern cuisine and soul food were domesticated or consumed in the African savanna and the tropical regions of West and Central Africa. These include pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, many leafy greens, and sorghum. It has also been noted that a species of rice was domesticated in Africa, thus many Africans who were brought to the Americas kept their knowledge for rice cooking. Rice is a staple side dish in soul food and is the center of dishes such as red beans and rice. There are many documented parallels between the foodways of West Africans and soul food recipes. The consumption of sweet potatoes in the US is reminiscent of the consumption of yams in West Africa. The frequent consumption of cornbread by African-Americans is analogous to West Africans' use of fufu to soak up stews. West Africans also cooked meat over open pits, and thus it is possible that enslaved Africans came to the New World with knowledge of this cooking technique (it is also possible they learned it from Native Americans, since Native Americans barbecued as a cooking technique). Researchers state that many tribes in Africa utilized a vegetarian/plant based diet because of its simplicity which most African dishes are based upon. This included the way food was prepared as well as served. It was not uncommon to see food served out of an empty gourd. Many techniques to change the overall flavor of staple food items such as nuts, seeds, and rice contributed to added dimensions of evolving flavors. These techniques included roasting, frying with palm oil, baking in ashes, and steaming in leaves such as banana leaf.

wikipedia.org

 

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