Art & LifeSocietyFoods of Wakanda

Sun,19Aug2018

Posted on Thursday, 26 July 2018 12:30

Foods of Wakanda

By Ozoz Sokoh

TAR101p76-food
Inspired by Black Panther, food writer and blogger Ozoz Sokoh lets her imagination run riot in the Wakandan kitchen

 

Wakandan cuisine is an interesting mélange of rich, vibrant stews, porridges and pottages. Aromatic, pungent, full of smoke and umami, the flavours are complex – sweet, spicy, bitter and sour. There are foods for healing and restoration after a challenge or battle, and foods for rejuvenation and comfort for feasts and celebrations. Wood, clay and stone are prized in kitchen utensils and the Wakandan pantry is evergreen. Or ever-purple as the case might be, reinforcing the royal palate. Drawing on its culinary diversity and regional cultural food exchange, most communities have gardens and farms where fruit and vegetables, herbs and roots are grown.

Food is seasoned with herbs and spices from the northern slopes of the Jabari mountain tribe. Thyme, rosemary, scent leaf, cilantro, cardamom, cinnamon, oregano, ginger and garlic are common flavours in the rich stews, and roots and barks are blended for food and tonics to revitalise, refresh and reawaken. Mountain goats provide excellent milk from which gut-friendly fermented products are made, like buttermilk, kefir, yogurt and cheeses.

Coconut oil and ghee from goats, cows and sheep are the principal cooking oils. The Border tribe rear sheep providing premium meat as well as other dairy products. Here, leafy greens, roots, tubers, plantains and bananas are staples. If Wakanda had a national meat, it would be Border lamb, cooked in home kitchens and on street grills coated in a nutty spice rub, like Nigerian beef suya.

The southern Alkama fields, where both rice and fonio thrive, have long been a source of contention between Wakanda and neighbouring Niganda. Subjected to both drought and floods in the past, they are now the bread basket of Wakanda, providing nutritious grains. Rice dishes are often spiced and cooked as pilaf or jollof, as has been done since the beginning of time. Fonio is one of the fastest-growing grains in the millet family and likely the oldest African grain, used in everything from porridge to pottage. As it is super nutritious – rich in amino acids, methionine and cystine – Wakandans want to popularise fonio to aid food security beyond the country’s borders. In its West African birthplace, the Dogon of Mali believe it is ‘the seed of the universe’, from which the whole universe sprang. Meals of these cereals and grains provide sustenance before battle.

The River tribe make their home along Wakanda’s ­major rivers and to the east, on the banks of Lake Victoria. Freshwater fish like perch and shrimp are dried and used as umami seasoning in broths and soups, and also eaten fresh. Quite often they are simply grilled or fire-cooked. Celebratory feasts feature huge, vibrant platters of roasted fish surrounded by rainbows of seasonal vegetables.

 

Photo: Purple Cabbage Wraps - Ozoz Sokoh
Separate and wash the leaves of a purple cabbage. Leave to drain. Prepare fonio jollof and pan fry minced meat with spices. Grate carrots and slice a red bell pepper and cucumber into ribbons. Take a purple cabbage leaf and fill a third with fonio jollof. Follow with mince, and the assortment of vegetables. Sprinkle a handful of herbs over the salad and drizzle homemade peanut sauce, to taste. Top with toasted sesame seeds. Fold the cabbage leaf and eat it like a taco.

 

 From June 2018 print Edition

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