west african cuisine

Gumbo is a stew from Louisiana, USA, consisting of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the “Holy Trinity” - celery, bell peppers & onions. It’s categorized by the thickener used, okra, the Choctaw spice filé, or roux, the French base made of flour & butter. Creole gumbo contains shellfish, tomatoes, and a dark roux, file, or both. Cajun gumbo is based on a dark roux, made with shellfish or fowl. Sausage or ham might be added. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice, and combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, incl. French, Spanish, German, West African & Choctaw. Gumbo may be based on traditional West African cuisines or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse, or both. It was first described in 1802.

Excuse me, this whole fish I ordered has bones! The horror!

NYC got torrential downpours yesterday, and my block got flooded. People with basement apartments around where I live have water pumps for this type of thing. After being hit with hurricane Irene and Sandy, everyone around here is prepared to drain out flood waters. I was outside just taking it all in, and lo and behold, this otherwise well intentioned, but often annoying white couple came over to say hello. I dread small talk with them because it always revolves around them doing “ethnic things” and eating “ethnic food”. They always want to include me in their ethnic escapades. I made the mistake of telling them that I cover African musicians in concert. This was a huge mistake on my part. Walking around the block involves me altering my route because if they see me, they will start talking about African music. They will talk me to death! Just hearing them pronounce Fela Kuti as “Fella Cutty” is enough to drive me bonkers. Why me?

Anyway, they recently went to an Ivorian restaurant in Harlem, and they were shocked that the grilled fish they ordered was a whole fish. Many West African cuisines include the whole fish and I guess they aren’t used to getting a whole fish on their plate, complete with bones. They were like “The fish had bones in it.” “It was not like grilled salmon.” “Why did the fish still have eyes? It was like the fish was looking at me!”

I guess I was supposed to answer all these questions. I just sidestepped the topic completely and started talking about the rain and flash flood. They really wanted to talk about the Ivorian restaurant serving whole fish with bones. Why should I be explaining what an Ivorian restaurant does? I have no desire to explain away things relating to what any African does. Not my job. If you’re an African, it shouldn’t be your job to do this either. What would you think of me if I went up to random white people to interrogate them about bologna sandwiches? Exactly.

Things like this is why you should never take critical reviews of African food from white people on yelp seriously. I once read a review where this white woman thought she was going into cardiac arrest after she had some pepper soup.

However, nothing beats this white guy who left a yelp review describing fufu as a bread-like dish and then complained about it being a rough meal. That is peak level whiteness. I don’t know how it’s even possible to reach any of those conclusions. I have yet to read a yelp review that has surpassed this in terms of sheer ridiculousness.

“Fufu is like bread. Plus it’s really rough.” A white man on yelp.

Re: #BlackOut

“Why do Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year? That’s so racist.”

“Puerto Rican Day Parade? Why do people keep segregating themselves? It should be Human Day Parade.”

“How come so many Italian restaurants are in Little Italy? That’s segregation! Little Italy should be West African, Indonesian, and Omani cuisine!”

Said. Nobody. Ever.