From blogs to memoirs, there has been a proliferation of African food writing in the last few years which is amazing - as it gives readers new and exciting ways to explore relationships between people, culture and food in an African context. African food writing also comes in multiple genres - fiction, nonfiction, memoirs and more. While in the fiction department, there are works, such as Shubnum Khan's Onion Tears - that book made me want biriyani's and samosa's while I was reading - and Frances Mensah Williams' From Pasta to Pigfoot series, I thought I'd share some nonfiction and culinary memoirs that food lovers might, well ... love.
Zoe Adjonyoh's Zoe's Ghana Kitchen
Writer and cook Zoe Adjonyoh believes that:
... we are on the cusp on an African food revolution. There is a longing to try something that is actually new, not just re-spun, and African cuisines are filling that gap. It's the last continent of relatively unexplored food in the mainstream media. For too long Africans have kept this incredible food a greedy secret.
It's not hard to believe why she says that - as her pop-up restaurant and supper club have been making waves in the foodie scene in both London and Berlin by bringing traditional and contemporary Ghanaian food to an audience outside of the Ghanaian community. Her first cook book, Zoe's Ghana Kitchen will be published in April and 'will help you bring something truly exciting and flavour-packed to the kitchen.' As the blurb states:
Ghanian food is always fun, always relaxed and always tasty! From Pan-roasted Cod with Grains of Paradise and Nkruma (Okra) Tempura to Coconut & Cassava Cake and Cubeb Spiced Shortbread, this is contemporary African food for simply everyone. If you're already familiar with good home-cooked Ghanaian food, you'll find new ways to incorporate typical flavours - such as plenty of fresh fish and seafood, hearty salads and spices with a kick. If you're new to it, you'll no doubt be surprised and delighted at the relative ease of cooking these tempting dishes. Most of the ingredients are easy to come by at supermarkets or local shops, and the recipes are super flexible - you can take the basic principles and adapt them easily to what you have available in your cupboard or fridge.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's The Settler's Cookbook: Tales of Love, Migration and Food
One of my all time favourites! This warm and personal memoir is a mouthwatering exploration of Alibhai-Brown's East African Indian roots through the shared experience of cooking. Through the personal story of Yasmin's family and the food recipes they've shared together, The Settler's Cookbook tells the history of Indian migration to the UK via East Africa. Her family was part of the mass exodus from India to East Africa during the height of British imperial expansion, fleeing famine and lured by the prospect of prosperity under the empire. In 1972, expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin, they moved to the UK, where Yasmin has made her home with an Englishman. The food she cooks now combines the traditions and tastes of her family's hybrid history. Here you'll discover how Shepherd's Pie is much enhanced by sprinkling in some chilli, Victoria sponge can be enlivened by saffron and lime, and the addition of ketchup to a curry can be life-changing.
Yemisi Aribisala's Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds
Published by Cassava Republic Press, Longthroat Memoirs was shortlisted for the 2016 Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards. The blurb describes the book as:
'a sumptuous menu of essays about Nigerian food, loving presented by the nations's top epicurean writers. As well as a mouth-watering appraisal of the cultural politics and erotics of Nigerian cuisine, it is also a series of love letters to the Nigerian plate. From innovations in soup, fish as aphrodisiac and the powerful seductions of the yam, Longthroat Memoirs examines the complexities, peculiarities, the meticulousness and the tactility of Nigerian food ... A sensuous testament on why, when and how Nigerians eat the food they love to eat.'
As revealed in this interview with the sibling duo behind Chuku's - a Nigerian tapas restaurant:
The book came from the compilation of blogs that [Aribisala] wrote for two years and a few months for the Nigerian newspaper 234Next. More accurately, the book was made up of the compilation and fine-tuning of those blogs.
'Longthroat Memoirs' was the title of a 234Next blog post about keeping watch over the street from the balcony of my grandparent's house in Oke-ado, Ibadan: looking out eagerly for street vendors who carried their wares in impossibly heavy basins, or on trays, and walked up and down the streets hawking moin-moin, boiled corn, eko-tutu (white corn patties wrapped in banana leaf), oranges, fresh meat. They all had distinct powerful calls that they projected into the streets and into the rooms in your house. Their words created mouth-watering imagery and gave a slow motion reel feel to the street, gave reverberating sound to our space like that on a theatre stage.
Lopè Ariyo's Hibiscus
According to Red Magazine, 'Lopè Ariyo is going to do for Nigerian food what Sabrina Ghayour did for Persian food.' Described as a rising star of 2017 by the Guardian UK, food blogger Ariyo's first book, Hibiscus, will be published in June after winning Red magazine and HarperCollins food writing competition. Hibiscus is packed with delicious dishes and Lopè creates fresh, fuss-free meals that are full of flavour. Whether it's experimenting with new ingredients (Hibiscus Chicken), reimagining old favourites (Grapefruit and Guava Cheesecake, Baked Kuli Kuli Cod with Cayenne Yam Chips, Lagos Mess), exploring different techniques (Cheat's Ogi, Chin Chin) or finding alternatives to everyday staples (Plantain Mash with Ginger, Corn and Okra Gravy, Nigerian Roast Veg), Lopè will help you discover all that modern Nigerian food has to offer.
PS. If you want to follow some awesome African food bloggers, check out this list curated by Whats on Africa.