NEW YORK (AP) — If anyone asks chef Marcus Samuelsson what African food taste like, he has a ready answer: Have you ever had barbeque? Rice? Collard greens? Okra? Coffee?
“All of that food comes from Africa, has its roots in Africa,” says the Ethiopian Swedish writer and restaurateur. “Everyone has had African American dishes, whether they know it or not.”
Samuelsson is hoping to educate Americans and champion Black chefs in “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” from Little, Brown and Company’s Voracious imprint.
The book — with essays by Osayi Endolyn and recipe development by Yewande Komolafe — is a rich mix of stories and food, from citrus scallops with hibiscus tea to oxtail pepperpot with dumplings. As Samuelsson writes in the introduction: “This isn’t an encyclopedia. It’s a feast. And everyone’s invited.”
Samuelsson compares the food in the book to popular music. He looks at New Orleans and hears the influence of France, Haiti, Africa and Spain — he hears jazz. Black food is no different.
“It comes from the continent first and then it lands here. And then, whether we went North or stayed in the South or went out West, it’s going to have a different journey — a different flavor profile to it — depending on who we met and who we got together with,” he says.
“We still will cook,” he vows. “Black food has always been controversial because the way we were brought here to work, the food and the land. We have always had to do it through different lengths and a different set of rules.”
Readers will learn how wide and rich the food rooted in Africa can be, from the use of venison to pine nut chutney to roti. They’ll learn that benne seeds are a delicious alternative to sesame seeds and make a vinaigrette sing.