The Wall Street Journal Gets Africa Wrong


There’s an interesting story in The Wall Street Journal about how we should get ready for a “Nigerian P.F. Chang’s” because African food is the next big thing.

There is only one largely unexplored continent left — and it isn’t Antarctica. With the exception of North African and Ethiopian cuisine, there has been very little foodie-world attention devoted to the flavors and foods of the world’s second-largest continent.

The whole Africa-is-waiting-to-be-explored thing is a bit tiresome, but it’s true that New York hasn’t exactly embraced a range of African cuisines. What’s frustrating is the author’s explanation:

Poverty, hunger, war and sickness are why Africans — from Cameroon to Mozambique to Namibia to Congo — have been unable to develop a baobab-infused vinaigrette. You can’t afford the luxury of culinary adventure when you’re struggling to protect and feed yourself.

Africa is more than hunger and danger. All over the continent, Africans are making dinner reservations, taking their children to soccer practice, and bookmarking new recipes to try on the weekend. It’s a massive, complex continent, full of nuances, full of food lovers. In any case, and this should be obvious: There is always food culture, even in poverty.

I had some of my formative food experiences in Kenya, where my grandparents still live, and would be happy if the insufferable “trendologists” were right about this one, if African food really was the next big thing. Here’s why: Food trends might seem frivolous but at their best, they can nudge mainstream interest toward a place that has been misunderstood. They can help us look again and see a place more honestly.

Speaking of, here are three rad food blogs to peruse:
Tamu Tamu: A group of bloggers (including a brand strategist and tech nerd) run this Kenyan food blog, which mixes up entertaining at home and travel.
Buttered Up: Sarah Khanna is an Egyptian food blogger who fried spicy sausages in clarified butter after she voted.
Lohi’s Creations: Lohi Ogolo is a sassy Nigerian blogger who plays around with traditional recipes (and occasionally uses Knorr cubes).