African Heritage and Health Week with Recipe
In conjunction with African Heritage Month, the first week in February is African Heritage and Health Week. It is a week to celebrate the foods, flavors and the healthy cooking that form the traditional African diet. The focus of the week is to look back at the traditional foods and flavors that ARE healthy and incorporate them in the diets of the African American population today as well as to introduce them into the culture of all Americans.
Why Look Back at African Foods?
About 11 years ago I was asked to speak on health and nutrition to a primarily African American church. I was to speak for about an hour. Instead, the ladies kept me there for about 6 hours asking questions and I was asked to come back twice to speak more the topic. One of the ladies asked me to just tell them what I ate so I the could emulate me and be healthier. But I said something that I believed and wasn’t accepted as true yet in the health and wellness community: you should eat according to your heritage and listen to your body for clues as to what is healthy for you.
As African Americans, their heritage is more equator living. My heritage is primarily Scandinavian and Canadian Indian. I don’t do well with a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits, and seeds. I do well with a diet heavy in meat, meat fats, cultured dairy with a smaller amount of vegetables and even less fruit. They, on the other hand, do well with fruits, vegetables, seeds, eating meat only sparingly. Their fats should come from tropical foods: olives, coconut, etc. Mine should primarily come from meats and dairy.
Listen to Your Body
I stressed that we should listen to our bodies (not our minds) in addition to knowing our heritage. Not only is olive oil not native to Scandinavia or Canada, but I’m also allergic to it. I feel a little sick from it and if I have too much my mouth and lips will blister. I also don’t do well with cooked tomatoes. I will get yet another stomachache. Sigh. Pizza is okay, lasagna, not so much. Wheat causes me to bloat and gain weight. If I have too much, my joints get inflamed. I wake up stiff and feeling old. It doesn’t go away with just moving around like someone with arthritis. If I listen to my body, I am thin, healthy, and feel great. If I don’t, I gain weight, am stiff and feel terrible.
African American Diseases
First let’s look at the word disease. It really is dis-ease. Your body is not at ease, it’s not working properly. The question becomes, why? When Africans came to America they left their native foods behind and started eating the foods found here. Yes, some of their culture came with them, but the same foods, the same spices weren’t always found here and when they were they were expensive.
Additionally, the way many Africans came to the Americas was through slavery. They ate what was provided to them – the foods of the Europeans. Their bodies didn’t do well with those foods. They became lethargic. Add to that the long hours of working and their bodies started to break down. Eventually, diseases were attributed to their race that were not really a race “defect” but food related. They were not eating according to their heritage.
Enter “Rediscover Goodness Oldways”
Oldways is a “nonproﬁt dedicated to improving public health by inspiring individuals and organizations to embrace the healthy, sustainable joys of the “old ways” of eating—heritage-based diets high in taste, nourishment, sustainability, and joy.” On their site I read what I already knew: Africans did not have the health issues that are attributed to African Americans until they were here eating our foods. I grew up in a primarily African American neighborhood and the foods I remember most were chicken dripping in spicy barbeque sauce, ribs, also dripping in spicy barbeque sauce, fried chicken, and foods like that. Those foods were not native to Africa. They were Americanized foods.
Going Back to Heritage Eating
Oldways desires to teach different ethnic groups how to cook their native foods, which in turn will be healthier. The diseases that plague the group will diminish or disappear.
Can I Still Eat Foods from Other Cultures?
Of course, we can eat food from other cultures, but by knowing the foods that are right for our own bodies, we can choose to eat foods that are best for us most of the time and eat from other cultures on occasion. I still eat lasagna, but only once every couple of years. It’s my favorite of the tomato-based foods, so I’ll eat that over spaghetti, ziti, or other heavily tomato-based foods. I’ll have a bean burrito on occasion, but not on a regular basis. Corn is not my friend. Most of the time I don’t eat it. Again, it’s a rare treat. Sad because sweet corn dripping in butter! is SO good
So this morning I tried one of their recipes for you. African Heritage Spicy Chickpeas. It was pretty easy, but the flavor was not as I would expect from
African Heritage Spicy Chickpeas
First I’m going to apologize ahead of time for the pictures. I made this before my morning coffee. A mistake indeed!!
The Instructions for this recipe can be found on the Oldways site. African Heritage Spicy Chickpeas. The recipe says it serves 8. Seriously, even the chickpeas can states 2 services per can, so 2 cans would be four servings. I ate one-fourth of the recipe and was just adequately full. Serving other vegetables and some fruit afterward would have been the perfect dinner.
Enjoy this meal.
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