Meal 96: Liberia

This little slice of West Africa, internationally infamous for its brutal civil war and more recent Ebola crisis, has an unique origin story: it was founded by freed slaves who returned from the US. From what I can tell most of the cuisine is based on the locally available foods — which, unlike most of the rest of Africa but similarly to its immediate neighbors, is based on rice as a staple — but there are hints of the American […]

Meal 69: Guinea-Bissau

If you know anything about Guinea-Bissau, chances are it’s the dubious media-granted title of “the world’s first narco-state” and the ensuing coup. Conveniently located just a few days’ boating from South America, the small former Portuguese colony has become a waystation for drugs en route to Europe. The army not only consents but participates, increasingly so since last year’s coup. Not surprisingly, the money hasn’t reached the people; Guinea-Bissau is among the least-developed countries in the world. While the country is […]

Meal 68: Guinea

Teeny dried shrimp. Pre-cooked fonio grain. Okra powder. Unlike shopping for Ghana, this time Diaby had everything I needed. As I got to talking with the man behind the counter — finally, for the first time in a half-dozen trips, we broke the ice! — it turns out he’s from Guinea. (I was startled to hear the name of his city, Mamou. That’s pronounced the same as the family name for my grandmother who passed away last month. I suspect […]

Meal 67: Ghana

When I asked for fermented cornflour at Owa Afrikan Market, the kindly shopkeeper replied, “Kenkey? Oh, that’s from Ghana. We’re a Nigerian store!” I didn’t have much better luck at Diaby African Market, which is run by shopkeepers from Cote d’Ivoire who are equally friendly but equally devoid of kenkey. Just as I’d begun to grow a bit fatigued of what seem to be a limited range of very common African staples — smoked fish, palm oil, cassava, yam, plantain, […]

Meal 63: Gambia

The Gambia, a former British West African colony, is a little sliver of a country, hugging a river of the same name and surrounded by the formerly French Senegal. I find it appropriate that we held this Nosh in Portland, Oregon, a riverine city — and, thankfully, one that has a few African markets! While Gambia is squarely in West Africa, the food struck me as borrowing major parts from both Central and North Africa. The stew, with peanut butter […]

Meal 47: Democratic Republic of the Congo

What a special night! 75 guests, most of whom had never been to a Nosh before, gathered in the beautiful ballroom at Hostelling International on the Upper West Side, for a meal of classic Congolese dishes. The idea came from Ari, the community engagement manager at the hostel, who saw our email on The Listserve and reached out to see if we might want to do a Nosh with them. With a big venue and kitchen, we decided to align […]

Meal 41: Côte D’Ivoire

Am I getting better at cooking African food, or is Ivorian cuisine just that good? Probably more the latter, but still, this was probably our best sub-Saharan meal yet. The flavors were so well-balanced, the spice delightful and not overwhelming, and the textures pleasant. What’s more, with the exception of a few ingredients that you could probably cleverly work your way around, you can find these ingredients in a standard Western supermarket, so if you’ve been looking to try cooking […]

Meal 40: Congo

The larger better-known of the two countries named after the Congo River is the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former Zaire and previously a Belgian colony, but that shows up in the D’s. This meal is from the north side of the river, the Republic of Congo, the former French colony, sometimes known as Congo-Brazzaville after its capital. Anyway, as you might imagine, it’s a bit tricky to find what’s distinctively from this country as opposed to its cross-river sibling, […]

Meal 34: Chad

Chad spans the three S’s of the heart of Africa: the Sahara desert in the north, the arid Sahel in the middle, and the wetter savanna to the south. Or put into culinary terms, this extent is why we see both dates and peanuts factor into this meal. However, on the heels of the generically-named Central African Republic, Chad’s another country that poses some online searching problems, at least in English. To wit, I was looking for advice on cooking […]

Meal 33: Central African Republic

I’d have been pretty clueless about what to cook were it not for a chance introduction to the daughters of the US Ambassador to the Central African Republic. You see, I begin my research for a country’s cuisine by searching online, but the Central African Republic certainly wasn’t thinking of search-engine optimization when they chose their name, and it’s super hard to find info that relates to the country and not to Central Africa generically. But thankfully, through my friend […]