The Africa Cookbook

Jessica Harris, Author Simon & Schuster $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-684-80275-6
From the outset, African culinary historian, food writer and cookbook author Harris (The Welcome Table; Sky Juice and Flying Fish) dares readers to keep ""an open mind and a willing spoon"" as she traverses Africa, exploring the continent's diverse cuisines and rich history. An erudite discussion of regional food differences among North, South, East and West Africa is followed by a glossary of African ingredients and utensils and a list of mail order sources for ingredients. While Harris challenges readers to move beyond preconceived notions of African food as ""hot,"" ""spicy"" and limited to ""soupy stews,"" her lofty intentions fall somewhat short as her recipe collection covers mostly these very types of preparations. Virtually all of the 200-plus recipes are ""one-pot"" dishes, which showcase just one ingredient that is boiled or fried then seasoned, as with Coconut Crisps, Corn on the Cob and Boiled Yams. Main dishes include savory chicken and lamb preparations (Classic Chicken Yassa, from Senegal; Lamb Tajine with Prunes, from Morocco) and some exotic meat stews (Cape Verdean Stew with pig's feet and ham hocks, for example), all well seasoned and easily rendered. Harris's affinity and passion for Africa's food culture and history is infectious; yet her recipe collection, while providing a valuable cultural reference, glorifies the familiar and contains very few culinary surprises. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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