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recommended African Cookbooks

African Cookbook Review

This page contains a list of recommended cookbooks containing African recipes, plus a few other books of interest and uninterest.

Dorinda Hafner

has authored books and appeared in a television series about African cuisine. A Taste of Africa: With over 100 Traditional African Recipes Adapted for the Modern Cook (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 1993); the title says African, but the book contains much more. Recipes are arranged by country; this book contains recipes from ten African countries: Ghana (Ms. Hafner's birthplace); Ivory Coast; Mali; Morocco; Egypt; Ethiopia; Kenya; Tanzania; Zimbabwe; and Nigeria. African-based recipes from five other countries and one city are also included: Brazil; Trinidad and Tabago; Martinique and Guadeloupe; Jamaica; Cuba; and New Orleans. Boxes thoughout contain short texts on African history, legends, foodstuffs. A short glossary and bibliography are included. Illustrated with photographs of the prepared dishes.

Diane M. Spivey

specializes in African History. The Peppers, Cracklings, and Knots of Wool Cookbook: The Global Migration of African Cuisine (State Univsity of New York Press, 1999); This book documents the under-acknowledged and unappreciated African influence on culinary traditions outside of Africa. "The Peppers, Cracklings, and Knots of Wool Cookbook" has chapters on African influences in the cuisine of the Southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, and Brazil. Of course the food traditions that came with enslaved Africans had a significant effect in these regions of the Americas. (It should be obvious, though it is still unacknowledged and unappreciated.)
More surprising and a bit controversial is Spivey's hypothesis of ancient African influences in Mesoamerica, South America, and Asia. Spivey starts with the premise that Africans sailed to and traded with the Americas in ancient and medieval times. Clearly there is the need for more research here; this book is really just a start.
Spivey's book is also part cookbook, and the recipes are excellent. It should be noted that these recipes are more in-the-tradition than actually traditional. Spivey invents recipes based on the theory of historical contact between African and non-African cultures. For example, "Chocolate Lamb and Beef Sauce" which combines the African peanut-stew and the Mexican molé sauce traditions. Does Spivey believe that ancient Africans made this after their voyages to America? Or did this recipe come into being with her book? Either way, it sounds delicious.

Laurens van der Post

lived and traveled in most of Africa and wrote fiction and non-fiction about Africa. Recipes: African Cooking (Foods of the World) (New York: Time-Life, 1970) contains primarily Western, Eastern, and Southern African recipes, with a great deal of anecdote and observation. The chapters include: "My Continent: A Personal View"; "The Ancient World of Ethiopia"; "New Cuisines for New Nations" [West Africa]; "In the Highlands of East Africa"; "The World of Portuguese Africa" [Angola, Mozambique]; "East and West Meet at the Cape" [South Africa--Asian influenced]; "Great Cooking from Rich Farms" & "On the Track of the Voortrekkers" [South Africa--European influenced]. Illustrated in the Time-Life coffee-table book style.
(This publication consists of two parts: a large hardcover book containing most of the text but only a few recipes in each chapter, and a small spiral-bound book containing all of the 120 recipes.)

First Catch Your Eland: A taste of Africa (New York: Morrow, 1978) is also highly recommended: not a cookbook (there are no recipes), it is a book like no other, a memoir of African meals from a lifetime of living and travelling in Africa. Very interesting.

Ellen Gibson Wilson

discovered African cusine when she married a man who had lived in Africa. A West African Cook Book: Good Food From Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone (New York: M.Evans & Co., 1971) is an excellent book, containing not only ~150 recipes, but also a wealth of information about cooking and food in these four countries. Highly recommended and worth searching for. Introductory chapters cover: "In Praise of Pepper and Other Characteristics of West African Food"; "A Simple Guide to Ingredients"; "Cooking the West African Way"; and "Eating the West African Way". Recipes are in these chapters: "Classic Main Dishes"; "Classic Staple Dishes"; "Other Main Dishes"; Other Side Dishes"; "Starters"; "After Chop"; "Small Chop"; "Drinks"; "Some Feasts and Rituals". Bibliography.

Jerry Hopkins

has written books on Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Strange Foods: Bush Meat, Bats, and Butterflies: An Epicurean Adventure Around the World (Studio Books, 1994) Strange (perhaps from the North American perspective) gastronomic practices involving almost every living, and some non-living, thing imaginable from exotic locales in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and France.

Jill Norman

has worked on several books about spices and herbs. The Complete Book of Spices: A Practical Guide to Spices and Aromatic Seeds (Studio Books, 1994) Origin, history, cultivation, and uses of dozens of spices and spice blends from all over the world. A beautiful book. Illustrated. Includes many recipes.

Cooking with Spices (101 Essential Tips) (DK Publishing, 1998) is a very handy reference and a bargain.

Shirley Corriher

is a food scientist and researcher. CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking with 230 Great-Tasting Recipes (William Morrow& Co., 1997) The chemistry of cooking; what each ingredient does and how to vary ingredients to achieve different results. A great resource.

Irma S. Rombauer

authored the classic, which no home should be without. The Joy of Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 6th ed., 1997) "The most authoritative cookbook in America", over 1000 pages of every basic recipe, plus ingredient information and cooking techniques. Many people collect every edition of the book, which was first published in 1931.

Sheila Lukins

author, The Silver Palate Cookbook and The New Basics Cookbook. All Around the World Cookbook (Workman Publishing Company, 1994) Over 500 pages, recipes from "all around the world", but no recipes from Sub-Saharan Africa? No recipes for Chicken in Peanut-Tomato Sauce; no Poulet Yassa; no Jollof Rice; no Groundnut Stew? For shame.

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