Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine


Africa's art of cooking is a key part of its history. All toooften Africa is associated with famine, but in Stirring the Pot,James C. McCann describes how the ingredients, the practices,and the varied tastes of African cuisine comprise a body of historically gendered knowledge practiced and perfected in householdsacross diverse human and ecological landscape. McCannreveals how tastes and culinary practices are integral to the understanding of history and more generally to the ...

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Africa's art of cooking is a key part of its history. All toooften Africa is associated with famine, but in Stirring the Pot,James C. McCann describes how the ingredients, the practices,and the varied tastes of African cuisine comprise a body of historically gendered knowledge practiced and perfected in householdsacross diverse human and ecological landscape. McCannreveals how tastes and culinary practices are integral to the understanding of history and more generally to the new literature on food as social history.

Stirring the Pot offers a chronology of African cuisine beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing from Africa's original edible endowments to its globalization. McCann traces cooks' use of new crops, spices, and tastes, including New World imports like maize, hot peppers, cassava, potatoes, tomatoes, and peanuts, as well as plantain, sugarcane, spices, Asian rice, and other ingredients from the Indian Ocean world. He analyzes recipes, not as fixed ahistorical documents,but as lively and living records of historical change in women's knowledge and farmers' experiments. A final chapter describes in sensuous detail the direct connections of African cooking to New Orleans jambalaya, Cuban rice and beans, and the cooking of African Americans' "soul food."

Stirring the Pot breaks new ground and makes clear the relationship between food and the culture, history, and national identity of Africans.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Well-written, clear, and informative, Stirring the Pot provides a compelling, readable history of food and cuisine in Africa. . . .
a remarkable book.”
— Amy Bentley, associate professor in the department of Nutrition,Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University

“Published as part of an Africa in World History series brought out by an academic press, Ohio University Press, and aimed primarily at students and scholars, Stirring the Pot nonetheless considers a large swath of the world’s foodways and history in a valuable and, for many readers, new way. Despite the foodie fever currently gripping the culture, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot out there about African cuisine. . . .” 
— Wilson Quarterly

“Historian McCann alters the typical proportions of books on food, with 27 select recipes supplementing generous portions of the history of cuisine in Africa and beyond. The author emphasizes disparate influences on Africa’s foodways, including encounters between the continent’s peoples and states along with seminal transformations wrought by post-1492 global circulation of crops. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
— Choice

“(Stirring the Pot) makes the reader both intellectually and physically hungry.”
Canadian Journal of History

“In this compelling study, James C. McCann provides a profound and novel way to examine history and historical change not only in Africa but also in the Atlantic basin. . . . This book allows readers to peek into the African cooking pot in order to better understand the constituent parts and nuances of African cuisine, as shaped by geography, history, trade across ecological zones, and migration (forced and voluntary) across oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, and the Mediterranean).”
American Historical Review

“The author of the Gourmand award-winning book Stirring the Pot is one of the biggest experts when it comes to the agricultural and cooking history of Africa.”
— Gourmand Magazine

“(McCann’s) close reading of a feast offered in 1887 by Tatyu, the wife of Ethiopian king Menelik II, is an exemplary investigation of stat patronage and Ethiopian cuisine. The author’s use of details is eye-catching…. There has been a desperate need for this kind of study for over two decades, so McCann has done African studies a service by writing such a readable book.”
Notes & Records

“Stirring the Pot is a welcome addition to the sparse literature on African history, food and foodways, and popular culture…. The book is aimed at a wide audience, ranging from mature secondary-school students through undergraduates and general readers, but graduate students and academics will also find its detailed documentation helpful.”

Library Journal
This first title in the "Africa in World History" series—which series editors David Robinson and Joseph C. Miller write in their preface is "intended for teaching and for stimulating further inquiry"—serves as a nice introduction to and broad look at African cuisine. McCann (associate director, African Studies Ctr., Boston Univ.; Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500–2000) arranges the book chronologically from the 1500s to modern day and touches on topics from traditional staple crops to African influences on American and Cuban foods. Well organized into four sections, the book devotes one part to Ethiopia and includes a chapter on "Diaspora cookery," in which McCann discusses soul food and other African-influenced foods. McCann's friendly tone adds to the approachability of the work, which is not overly academic despite more than 25 recipes, an epilog of comparative readings, and a lengthy bibliography. VERDICT Recommended as a good first book on African food history and culture for those beginning to explore the topic.—Lisa A. Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896802728
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2010
  • Series: Ohio Africa in World History Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,059,004
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James C. McCann is a professor of history and chair of the Department of Archaeology at Boston University. He is winner of a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2014 Distinguished Scholar of the American Society of Environmental History.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Series Editors' Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: African Cooking and African History 1

Part 1 Basic ingredients 15

1 Seasons and Seasonings: Africa's Geographic Endowments of the Edible 17

2 Staples, Starches, and the Heat of Atlantic Circulation 32

Part 2 Stirring the National Stew: Food and National Identity in Ethiopia 63

3 Taytu's Feast: Cuisine and Nation in the New Flower, Ethiopia, 1887 65

4 Stirring a National Dish: Ethiopian Cuisine, 1500-2000 78

Part 3 Africa's Cooking: Some Common Ground of Culture and of Cuisine 107

5 A West African Culinary Grammar 109

6 History and Cookery in the Maize Belt and Africa's Maritime World 137

Part 4 Africa's Global Menu 161

7 Diaspora Cookery: Africa, Circulation, and the New World Pot 163

Epilogue: Some Good Comparative Readings 180

Appendix: Recipe List l85

Notes 187

Bibliography 199

Index 205

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