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from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Palaver 'Sauce'

Older editions of Webster's Dictionary define "palaver" as "a parley between European explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in Africa" or "In Africa, a parley with the natives; a talk; hence, a public conference and deliberation; a debate". Like "parole", "palaver." came into English from the Latin "parabola". The word "palaver" was carried to Africa by the Portuguese language. In the 1400s the Portuguese were the first to sail around Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. (Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488.) Portuguese traders were the first Europeans to establish a presence along the sub-Saharan African coasts. Though they were later largely displaced by the English and French, the word "palaver" became a part of the lingua franca along the Atlantic coast of Africa. What "palaver" has to do with Palaver Sauce (or Palava Sauce)--an African stew made from greens and meat--is not clear. In Ghana, this dish is also called Kontonmire, Kentumere, or Nkontommire, named for the leaf of the cocoyam (taro) plant which is used for the greens. See also: Plasas.

woman carrying child on back in guinea village

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Palaver 'Sauce' is a good example of the English word "sauce" used to describe something that is more like a soup or stew.

Platto, bologie, and bitterleaf all appear in various Palaver 'Sauce' recipes-- whether these African greens are one and the same is uncertain. (See also: Ndole Soup.) Spinach is usually substituted outside of Africa.


Richard Francis Burton

Palaver sauce is a mess of vegetables

Richard F. Burton, the great 19th century traveler, writer, and translator, described Palaver Sauce in Wanderings in West Africa (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1991 "Two Volumes bound as One"; originally published by Tinsley Brothers, London, 1863). "Hibiscus" may refer to okra. Okra and various hibiscus plants are all in the mallow family (Malvaceae).

"Palaver sauce" is a mess of vegetables, the hibiscus, egg-plant, tomato, and pepper, boiled together, with or without fowl or fish.
(Volume II, Chapter IX, A Pleasant Day in the Land of Ants [Accra])


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