Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Learning about food from different regions and cooking with these ingredients is exciting and enlightening. The kitchen is a wonderful place to daydream of travelling to exotic locales. Unscrew the lids and these little seeds, pods and powders have the ability to transport us to other countries and teach us about their cultures. As travel becomes more expensive and Covid continues to make it almost impossible, my kitchen will be the next best thing. If not fulfil my longing to see the world, it could give me a better understanding of it!
What better way than to start right where we are, right in the middle of the festival of Kwanzaa.
Spices, dried fruits and nuts are assembled: cinnamon, grated ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, pimento, sweet anise and oranges.
My online research says that Kwanzaa which means "first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili, is rooted in traditional African harvest festivals, when fruits and vegetables are abundant. It is an annual weeklong celebration of African-American culture that takes place from December 26th to January 1st when African heritage, unity and culture is celebrated and culminates in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the 6th day. It was created by black studies professor and activist Maulana Karenga and is based on African harvest traditions from various parts of Africa including West and Southeast Africa. It was first celebrated in 1966 and usually involves singing and dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, African drumming and of course, feasting! There are seven principles represented by seven candles placed in a Kinara. Each of the candles, three red, three green and one black, represents a different principle that people all over the world can relate and aspire to! The seven principles of Kwanzaa as determined by Karenga are:
Umoja – Unity
Kujivhshulia – self determination
Ujima – Collective work and responsibility
Ujamaa – Cooperative economics
Nia – Purpose
Kumba – Creativity
Imani – Faith
The main dishes enjoyed for Kwanzaa are groundnut stew, a dish from West Africa made from stewed chicken thighs, sweet potatoes and peanuts and sounds absolutely delicious. Then there is Jollof rice, a dish also from West Africa made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions spices and vegetables in a single pot! I will be trying that one soon. Also enjoyed are collard greens, Kwanzaa slaw which includes shredded carrots, carrots celery, red, green and yellow sweet peppers, I can just imagine the beautiful colours of this bowl. Beans and rice which we here in Jamaica certainly identify and okra are some other foods that are included.
Cooks have long valued spices as a way of developing deep flavours, I think they are the very soul of a dish. The characteristic flavours of spices and herbs and their unique blends define the cuisine of many a country and give insight into the culture. For my little celebration photo of Kwanzaa, I assembled spices that I associate with African countries before launching into the recipe for one of my favourite cakes and a companion pot of spice tea on the side. The base is ginger, and the spices I used are pimento, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, star anise, vanilla, nutmeg and cloves. I included both Lemon and sour orange juices and zest, nuts, dried fruit, and molasses. This cake is delicious as, however, once cooled, I made it a bit more special by topping with vanilla yogurt, orange zest, nuts, bits of dried fruit and paper thin fig slices and Begonia blossoms. It is rich, fragrant, celebratory, not too sweet and oh so Moorish, pun definitely intended! My photo and story are simply an acknowledgement of Kwanzaa, I do not know enough about this beautiful festival to be precise, rather, it is a stop on my armchair journey into people and culture through food. Wishing you peace, love, unity and a joyous Kwanzaa!
Fruits and celebration spice cake
Each time I make this cake, it changes just a bit! You can find a similar version of this recipe by clicking on the story entitled, Rose Petal Tea Cake right here on my blog. #Food #culture #festivals #people Enjoy!
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