February 20, 2002 - Allentown Morning Call: Gabon RPCV "Ed Gibbon" runs a web site dedicated to Recipes from Africa

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Gabon RPCV "Ed Gibbon" runs a web site dedicated to Recipes from Africa

Read and comment on this excerpt from a story from the Allentown Morning Call on a Gabon RPCV who goes under the pen name of "Ed Gibbon" and who runs a web site at The Congo Cookbook dedicated to recipes from Africa at:

The soul of soul food ** The cuisine that made its way to America is rooted in African traditions. *... *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

The soul of soul food ** The cuisine that made its way to America is rooted in African traditions. *...

Feb 20, 2002 - Allentown Morning Call Author(s): Joanna Poncavage Of The Morning Call

Talking about African cooking is like trying to hug an elephant: both subjects are very large. That's because "Africa is a continent with 60-some countries," says Fran Osseo-Asare of State College, a writer who specializes in African food.

But if you concentrate on the west coast of Africa, the region to which many Americans of African heritage trace their ancestry, you'll find the soul of soul food. "The closest links to our own Southern regional cuisine are West African," says Osseo-Asare, who is writing a book on Ghana's regional cuisines.

"All over the continent, Africans eat greens," says Ed Gibbon, an ex-Peace Corps member with an interest in cooking who created a Web site for African recipes and culture. "They chop the tops off many kinds of plants in their gardens, boil them and season them with a little meat, either beef or wild game or dried or smoked fish they've caught themselves."

Gibbon (a pen name he uses to keep his pastime separate from his day job with the federal government in Washington, D.C.) spent two years in Gabon on Africa's West Coast. "Gabon exports oil and has a little more money, so it attracts immigrants from other countries. A lot tend to open up restaurants on the side, so you have a microcosm of Africa in Gabon," he says.

When he returned to the United States, "I started cooking some things I could remember, then people started asking for the recipes. I thought I could just put them on a Web site." The site, The Congo Cookbook (www.congocookbook.com), has grown to 100 recipes and contains much cultural information and African history, plus discussion forums.

Gibbon says two of his favorites are chicken dishes. "Chicken in peanut butter sauce is common all over Africa," he says. "It has dozens of different names. The other really popular dish is called poulet yassa, a dish very much identified with Senegal." Marinated in onions, lemon juice and mustard, the chicken is grilled while the marinade is cooked to make a sauce. "It's a crowd pleaser," he says.

How African cooking came to American tables is of particular interest to the Zawadi Collective, an Allentown-based performance and education ensemble that shares African culture through dance, poetry, visual arts and storytelling.

"We preserve the history and traditions of the diaspora," says Eyele Yetunde, founder and director of the eight-person group, referring to the migration of Africans through the Caribbean to the United States.

"We all come from an Afrocentric base, but many of us have been disconnected from what is ours. We share the traditions of our ancestors, but we also create new traditions."

Many connections can be made through food, says Yetunde, who also is president of the board of directors of Open Space Gallery in Allentown. For the opening reception for the Black History Month exhibit "Voices of the Diaspora' Saturday, she helped plan a menu of African-influenced foods, including fried fufu with peanut sauce, jollof rice balls, corn cakes, sauted slivered plantains and vegetable turnovers. "And hot sauce -- you always have to have the hot sauce," she says.

"If you look at the African recipes, so much of it is there. Even though we have been splintered and our cultures have intermingled, our traditions are still there, from the north to the south of Africa, from the old to the new."

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : RPCV News - What RPCVs are doing; Gabon



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