It’s that time of year. For many of us in the U.S. December means busyness and festivity, whether it’s celebrating Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Christmas. The season may include shopping and spending more time with family and friends, and it definitely means cooking!
Tanzanian Christians are probably cooking up a feast of their own this month. Dishes one might expect to see on a Tanzanian Christmas table include pilau, a rice dish with lots of spice; a chicken, red meat or seafood dish often cooked in coconut; and chai tea.
While one-third of the Tanzanian population practices Christianity, another one-third practices Islam. (2) A Muslim holiday marked by a feast comes a little earlier in the year - Eid al-Fitr, which ends a month of sunrise to sunset fasting. The dishes on this feast table might include plantains; fish; dates; and ugali, a cornmeal-based dish often served with a sauce. Ugali is a staple throughout Africa although it goes by different names depending on the region. (2)
Interested in learning more about East African cuisine? African Eats, An Introduction to African Cooking might be a great addition to your cookbook collection or as a gift for someone else in your life. Written by Jane Leuchter, Felicia McKenzie and Emma Hill of Brighter Tanzania Foundation, the book is a collection of mostly Tanzanian and Kenyan recipes with a sprinkling of recipes from other regions on the continent. It includes recipes of both traditional and modern dishes, and the recipes are accompanied by a bit of history.
For example, readers will learn that the migrations of different peoples into the region has influenced the East African culture of food. As noted in the book, about 1,000 years ago, merchants from the Middle East began settling along the Swahili coast, thus incorporating many of their spices in the diet of Tanzanians and Kenyans. Indians have also migrated to East Africa, and it is from their culture that chapati, a flour-based flat bread, became a common breakfast in Tanzania. (3)
The cook book’s authors begin with a summary of the East African diet: “East African dishes tend to be simple, centered around a few ingredients, with bold, assertive flavors, thanks to fresh ingredients and complex spice blends.” Its collection of recipes are organized in four sections: breakfast, entrees, sides, and drinks/desserts. Be aware: each section is chocked full of vibrant photography that will wet your palate. African Eats is available on Ebook for $9.99 or soft cover for $39.99 and can be purchased at http://www.blurb.com/b/7723794-african-eats.
As you plan your holiday feast, get comfortable with a cup of chai or a mbege (banana beer) and browse African Eats. You may just add some African dishes to your menu this year!