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African Recipe Nomenclature

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names of African foods

African Recipe Nomenclature

It could be argued that Africa's linguistic diversity is greater than its gastronomic diversity. Simply put, the number of African languages is greater than the number of African foods. The African continent is home to hundreds, maybe thousands, of languages (though perhaps only 40 African languages are spoken by two million or more people), but there are far fewer foodstuffs. This means that a certain food prepared a certain way might be known by one name in one place, and by another name in another place. For example, what can be called Black-Eyed Pea Fritters, or Bean Croquettes, or Bean Balls (in English) are called Akara in The Congo Cookbook. That is one name for them in at least one language in Western Africa, but they are also known as Binch Akara, Kosai, Koose, and Kwasi, and probably many other things. Akara may or may not be the most common name. As if there were not enough African languages, things are further complicated by the fact that African words are spelled differently in different languages like English, French, Portuguese, German, or Italian that came to Africa in the colonial era. For example, the Moambé Stew recipe could just as easily have been titled Mwambé.

When African words are written in English, a good rule to follow is to pronounce each vowel as a seperate syllable. For example: Matoke is pronounced "ma-toe-kee". French accents are sometimes used, for example, "Moambé" is pronounced "mwam-bay".

Alice Werner

every syllable as ending in a vowel, and every vowel to be pronounced

Alice Werner provided much the same advice for pronouncing words from the Bantu languages in her Myths and Legends of the Bantu (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1933), in which she wrote:

A word as to the pronunciation of African names. No attempt has been made to render them phonetically, beyond the rough-and-ready rule that vowels are to be pronounced as in German or Italian, consonants as in English, every syllable as ending in a vowel, and every vowel to be pronounced. Thus it has not been considered necessary to put an acute accent over the e in Shire (which, by the by, ought to be Chiri) and Pare. Where ng is followed by an apostrophe, as in 'Ryang'ombe' (but not in 'Kalungangombe'), it is sounded as in 'sing,' not as in 'finger.'

Other African gastronomical excerpts

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