July 28, 2010

What's Cooking? Central and Western African Cuisine

Last month, Bread for the City's Nutrition Initiative set its sights on Africa -- specifically, West and Central African cuisine! Bread for the City has many Nigerian and Cameroonian clients, some with extensive cooking experience. For one of our bi-weekly cooking seminars, conducted alongside clients who are learning about health and nutrition, nutrition consultant (and cooking coach) Sharon Gruber researched regional cuisine, and modified some of her ongoing lessons about health and nutrition to come up with recipes that were both familiar and nutritious. Altogether, it made for a well-attended and boisterous class!

“The men in the group said they normally don’t get to walk into a kitchen, let alone cook," said Sharon. "But here the men got to make an avocado salad. The women thought this was great!”

Sharon engaged in dialogue with the class participants about how recipes could be made both affordably and healthfully. She explains: “Our goal was to make traditional dishes that taste authentic, while also making them as healthful as possible.”

While many participants in the class already knew how to make akara (fritters made with black-eyed peas), Sharon and her Nigerian co-teacher, Ms. Tulani Rufai, a nutritionist and BFC client, modified the recipe by leaving the black-eyed peas unprocessed. This keeps more fiber in the dish. The class worked together with Sharon and Ms. Rufai to cook this new akara recipe, as well as a stew that was served with a traditional rice and vegetable dish called jollof rice, and the avocado salad that was proudly put together by the male participants.

Attendees were really enthusiastic. As Sharon recalls, “The first thing that Ms. Rufai said when she walked in the room, was 'That jollof rice looks great!'” The clients who attended this workshop enjoyed learning about how to make familiar foods more nutritious and, as you can see in the video, had a great time cooking together too!

Bread for the City is committed to meeting our clients’ needs in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. By incorporating foods into our cooking classes that our clients are already comfortable making, we are respecting their abilities while also demonstrating techniques that make these favorite recipes healthier. “The participants seemed honored that we focused on their native cuisine, and they had lots of suggestions about what we’d make next time," Sharon says.

Fortunately, “next time” is rapidly approaching! There is a special workshop for Salvadoran and Mexican medical clinic patients taking place on Tuesday, August 3rd in the NW center. There will be a Spanish translator present to help facilitate the experience. Then, at the end of August we will be holding two more general cooking classes, dates to be announced. Keep an eye on this blog for more information as it is available! All clients are welcome to attend these late-August workshops.

-- This post was written by Development Department Intern, Kristin Kozlowski

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