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During this little project I’ve been doing for the last few weeks, exploring the foods of recently maligned cultures, I’ve become a bit fascinated with the layered Moroccan meat pie called b’stilla. It was one of the first things I thought of when I started this exploration. This isn’t that post. I did buy all the stuff to make a b’stilla but I just wasn’t feeling it. My first attempt was underwhelming and I really didn’t feel like making it again right now. Instead, struggling with some horrendous jet lag that has me turned all upside-down, I wanted something spicy, something comforting, something saucy. I wanted a project; one that would eat up some time since I seem to be awake at all kinds of weirdo hours and provide my addled brain something to focus on. I wanted doro wat. Luckily, I had everything on hand, including all the spices so I dove in, taking most of my Moroccan ingredients and turning them into a spicy Ethiopian chicken stew instead.

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Researching the foods of Africa in an effort to learn more about this recently maligned continent, I found so many things that sounded delicious. Too many. One day, I googled “African snacks” curious to see what came up for any of the 54 countries. I immediately perked up at the results which were far better than I had hoped. A litany of amazing things – meat pies, fritters, meat on sticks, and fried dough in all kinds of shapes and sizes and glazes. Among these were a few things with really great names that caught my attention immediately … chin chin, puff puffs and fat cakes. What?!? How much fun do these sound?!? I want to eat them all. Obviously I started with puff puffs. How could I not?

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I had friends over for dinner recently, where I tried out a bunch of dishes I’ve been working on, exploring the foods of maligned cultures that I know little about. Turns out, they knew little about them too. Haiti, El Salvador and all the countries that make up Africa, few knew much about the food and it lead to lively discussions, great conversation and a really enjoyable meal. Food has the power to do that, bring people together. Today’s post is from Haiti and it is a hell of a good stew – Poulet Creole. All the lively flavors interwoven in the country’s history, namely from waves of African and French immigrants, come together in this dish in the best possible ways.

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When I started this exploration of the foods of recently maligned countries a few weeks ago, the only real familiarity I had with African foods were those from Ethiopia. When I first moved to Chicago, there were three Ethiopian restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. I’d go frequently on the weekends when they had a cheap and plentiful buffet and load up on all sorts of delicious things – the spongy sour bread that sops up all the delicious flavors, the deeply flavored, subtly spicy stews and the tender, flavorful greens. Oh man, those greens. Right off the bat, I knew I had to make those greens.

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Continuing on with this culinary journey of recently maligned countries, today it’s Africa, specifically Senegal. When I was a kid I had a cookbook that featured the customs, a brief history and a recipe from various countries. It’s where I learned that cashews grow on trees and the nut grows off the bottom of the fruit, the cashew apple, in a very hard shell. Each apple has one cashew nut, or seed. Though I don’t remember the featured country – Brazil? India? – I figured out pretty quick why cashews were so expensive. That little nugget of information has absolutely nothing to do with this post except that there was another page in the book that was very interesting. It was a recipe for an African “groundnut stew” and contained peanut butter, which blew my 8 year old mind. My entire frame of reference for peanut butter at that time was a sandwich, on smooshy bread with grape jelly and yet here it was in a stew. For dinner. What? I’ve been intrigued ever since.

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Despite some missteps, I’ve enjoyed learning more about the food from other parts of the world. After our President said those horrendous words about Haiti, Africa and El Salvador a few weeks ago, I made a few calls to my Senators and Congressman to register my anger and I started looking into food as a means to learn more about these countries. This week it was Haiti. While having some commonalities to other Caribbean nations, Haiti has some unique dishes of its own influenced by its history. It is a Creole cuisine, originating from a blend of several culinary styles that populated the island, namely the French, African, Taíno natives, and Spanish. Another example of how waves of immigration influence our foods. Peppers and herbs are often used for building flavor and dishes tend to be seasoned liberally. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?

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… apologies

I messed up yesterday and for that I sincerely apologize. I offended many of you with a term for an exploration of the foods of recently maligned countries and that certainly wasn’t my intent. At all. But I hear you. My intent is irrelevant. As someone wisely pointed out, I can’t take ownership of this blatantly racist term regardless of my intentions. Got it. After much thought, I have deleted that post as I don’t want to continue to offend. I never ever meant to denigrate El Salvador nor it’s foods. Never.

As for the recipe, dang. I made some crap pupasas. That was made very clear. Honestly, I can appreciate your passionate replies and united hatred of my attempt. As much as it stung, it made me smile a little too. Familial recipes, especially those deeply rooted in our cultures, are intensly personal. Know that I heard you loud and clear. My pupasas were crap. I need to go back and work on these a bit more. I started with what I thought was a solid recipe source but I guess pupasas weren’t their strong point either. Maybe I’ll take another public crack at this one if I can get it right. I might have to track down someone to teach me first.

We all make mistakes. I’ll take ownership for mine. I most definitely did not mean to offend so if I did, I hope you can accept my apology. I’ve heard you.