What's for Dinner in Africa
STIRRING THE POT:
A History of African Cuisine.
By James C. McCann.
Ohio Univ. Press. 213 pp. $26.95
The sounds that stay with me from the years I lived in Benin are those of the several languages spoken there—and of cooking. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the rural savanna, where food preparation was the domain of women, who cooked over coal or wood fires. Deftly wielding a wooden baton, my neighbor Nyaki stirred maize meal in a fire-licked pot. As the maize thickened toward the consistency of polenta, her baton went thwump, thwump, thwump. Or picture two women standing on either side of a three-foot mortar, each holding a long wooden pestle and taking plunges at boiled yams, pounding one after the other in a driving, two-beat tempo: barum, barum, barum, barum. Watching them, I’d wonder, how long have women been working these instruments on this food in this dance?
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Erica Bleeg was a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 1997 to 1999. She teaches in the English Department at James Madison University.more from this author >>
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