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from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering


At first glance, Calalu seems like Gumbo: an African-style recipe with an African name, but found only in the Americas. The main difference is that Calalu always includes greens, while Gumbo always includes okra (except for those Gumbos thickened with filé powder). There are some gastronomic references to Calalu in Western Africa, particularly Benin (Dahomey) (for example, Countess Morphy page), though these are outnumbered by recipes for Calalu from the Caribbean.

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In the "Africa" section of the seminal Recipes of All Nations Countess Morphy writes "Another national dish of Dahomey is the Calalou". See Rare Recipes: Countess Marcelle Morphy.

Calalu means greens

Dictionaries say the word Calalu means greens (particularly various species of xanthosoma or colocasia; commonly known as taro, cocoyam, eddo, or dasheen, see Greens in Africa). The word also refers to soups and stews made from these greens, (Haitians further complicate things by using the word "calalu" to mean okra); the word comes from the Arawakan languages of the Caribbean and entered European languages via American Spanish. But the taro or cocoyam plant and the custom of eating its leaves cooked as greens apparently arrived in the Caribbean with enslaved Africans, probably from Western Africa. That the plant came from Western Africa to Caribbean, while the name went from the Caribbean to Western Africa is evidence of the connections, gastronomic and other, that exist between these two regions.

In the Caribbean, Calalu (also spelled Callaloo, Calalou, Callilu, and Callalou) is made from almost any combination of crabmeat, fish, dried fish, lamb, shrimp, smoked meat, bacon or salt pork, salt cod or stockfish, garlic, okra, onions, tomatoes, spices, and, always, greens. In Brazil a similar dish called Carurú is made from okra and shrimp. The word Calalu is also used figuratively to mean a melange, anything made by combining a variety of ingredients.

More about Calalu in the Rare Recipes pages:

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African Proverb

Mofere ipa eiye na. Aki ofere li obbe. (Yoruba) : "I almost killed the bird!" (said the sportsman). "No one can eat 'almost' in a stew" (i.e., "almost" never made a stew -- was the reply.)
  (from: Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton)

Other African proverbs

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