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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.

 

To my great delight this little experiment of mine, the exploration of some recently disparaged countries, has been very warmly received. Thank you. Through our collective horror and disbelief, there’s an awful lot of us who want to fix things, to learn, to better understand. So it might be a small step, but let’s do that through some food. Today, continuing in the African direction, I’m taking a crack at a West African favorite – Jollof Rice.

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Late last week I watched the news in utter disbelief and horror. Yet again. Yet again, our President showed us who he is: ignorant, entitled, unintelligent and above all, yes, a racist. I won’t belabor the point on his utter incompetency too much because it is on full display every day but his comments about immigrants from “shithole countries” really struck a nerve. I am descended from immigrants. Chances are extremely high that you are too or maybe you’ve immigrated to this country. The President himself is descended from immigrants and at one point or another, those countries from which our relatives came, from which we hold vast amounts of pride, were probably considered shitholes too. No doubt about that. All four sets of my great grandparents came from Poland and Czechoslovakia during the Slavic migration and just like now, they faced discrimination from the wave of immigrants that came before them. Getting here first doesn’t make anyone more entitled or a better person. Argh, it makes me so angry.

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I haven’t started this year off on the right food, from a health nor a cooking perspective. I pushed into 2018 with a cold. That horrible, no good, terrible flu that’s making the rounds. I was down for the count for days and have been “in recovery” for two weeks. I feel better – I’m not downing a pack of Dayquil every few days anymore – but I certainly don’t feel great. I haven’t been hungry. I haven’t been cooking anything beyond buttered noodles and frozen pot pies. My kitchen mojo is running on empty.

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