Meta Description: During the Trans-Atlantice Slave Trade, Africans also took along with them, elements of their culture as they journeyed across the seas. This was how African foods found a new home in America and helped to shape America’s food culture. This article looks at some common ones.
If you want to know about a people, then one of the things you will have to check out is their food. How they prepare and eat it may also vary across tribes and regions. You can also use food to trace their origins, and this is why some of the foods or dishes that are found in America can be traced back to Africa.
This is because when the enslaved Africans, who were confined in the dark holds of the overcrowded, stinking, and pest-ridden slave ships, emerged into the light and hardship of the New World, they brought along with them the knowledge of planting and harvesting seeds and roots from their homeland.
How African Food Birthed Soul Food In America
The quality of food fed to the slaves was poor and low in nutritional value. But with their knowledge of planting and harvesting, they were soon able to grow African crops, which they cooked using their traditional methods. Perhaps it was also a way they could stay connected to their African roots.This practice helped them survive harsh conditions and they passed it on from generation to generation, and it later became known as Soul Food.
Soul food is a popular style of cooking in America that is rich and savory. The origin of Soul Food in America, can be traced to Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, the places referred to as the Deep South. To date, African food makes up American food culture with more African foods making their way across the continent.
Let’s take a look at some popular African crops that came to America through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Three African Foods That Came From Africa To America
Rice is a versatile cereal grain that is a rich source of carbohydrates, and is widely consumed in Africa as it is in America. I mean if there are ranks given to food, rice would be in the top five as one the most popular foods in the world.
Rice was an important part of the diet of enslaved Africans in America, because they didn’t fancy the fares of the ‘massas’. Thus, they used their knowledge of rice farming to cultivate rice. It has long been long debated if African knowledge of rice production helped in the development of rice agriculture in the U.S.
Rice is grown in many parts of America with an estimated 20 billion pounds of rice in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Rice (in its natural form) is gluten-free and contains a high concentration of vitamins and minerals and overall fantastic health benefits.
It is now a regular feature in American cuisine and you would find it in popular dishes like
Jollof rice, a rice dish from Senegal, West Africa.The rice is cooked with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, bell peppers, scotch bonnet peppers and spices. It is also used in the popular one-pot meal, Jambalaya.
Okra, also known as “lady’s fingers”, is a popular ingredient that has been part of American cuisine for centuries and yes, it originated from Africa. It has since become a staple in many Southern and Creole dishes.
Texas, Georgia, California and Florida are the leading okra-producing states in the US. This versatile vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be fried, boiled, stewed, pickled, and even served raw. Okra is very nutritious—high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is more commonly eaten in the South (U.S.). Some people find the slimy texture of okra off-putting, but it can be cooked in a way that minimizes the sliminess, for example, by coating it with cornmeal to give a crunchy texture.
Popular dishes prepared using Okra include Gumbo, a type of Southern Louisiana Creole thick stew-like soup and the official state cuisine (it’s derived from the Bantu word for Okra, “ki ngombo” ). Gumbo is made with a combination of seafood, meat (chicken, ham, and andouille sausage), tomatoes, okra and of course Creole’s holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery. It is usually served over hot cooked rice (we told you rice was popular).
There are many more tasty okra dishes that are eaten in America like Okra Creole and Cajun Chicken Cassoulet.
Back home in Africa, the slime of Okra is loved, and often used as a measure of how good a soup is. For me, a good Okra soup is one that has me chasing it with my tongue as it runs down the length of my arm.
Not to be mistaken for the musical group, the black-eyed pea is a small, round legume (beans) with a black spot in the center (In Nigeria black-eyed peas are popularly known as white beans).
From the Southern United States to the North, black-eyed peas have been a part of many traditional dishes. They are seen as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and good health throughout the years. In the South, black eyed-peas are served on New Year’s Day for luck in the coming year and during celebrations.
Black-eyed peas and rice is a traditional dish often mistaken for Hoppin’ John. A classic black-eyed peas recipe is made with rice, salt pork, garlic, collard greens (or some other greens), Creole’s holy trinity—onions, bell peppers, and celery. It can be cooked in a variety of ways and served with cornbread or other side dishes. It is also used in vegetarian dishes, as a substitute for meat.
The black-eyed pea is high in fiber, protein, and iron. It is also low in fat and calories. It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, magnesium, and potassium.
Thus ends our little Soul Food history lesson. So, if you’ve ever wondered where some of the recipes you enjoy come from, know that they may have made the journey across the high seas, and were passed down from the Africans who were brought to America as slaves.