In Print

The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa

In Print

The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa

by Marcus Samuelsson with Heidi Sacko Walters; photographs by Gediyon Kifle

Wiley, 344 pp., $40

Try locating cookbooks on African cuisine, and it will be a short search indeed. For a continent that is home to nearly a billion people, the site of the evolutionary development of man, and the birth of fire – with a collection of widely diverse cuisines that are all handed down through countless generations – there are surprisingly few cookbooks dealing with Africa. Marcus Samuelsson has made an important contribution to the exposure of the varied foods of the continent with the release of his The Soul of a New Cuisine.

Orphaned at the age of 3 in Ethiopia, he was adopted by a Swedish couple and grew up with strong culinary influences before getting formal French culinary training and apprenticing in elite kitchens around Europe. By the age of 24, he had become the celebrated executive chef of New York City's Aquavit restaurant.

In search of his familial and culinary roots, he started making food-discovery trips, first to Ethiopia and then all around the African continent. What he discovered was "a land of great beauty, and beautiful people ... a land of ubuntu – 'I am what I am because of who we all are.'"

Samuelsson offers a collection of 204 recipes and 258 stunning photographs that reflect the vibrant foods and cultures found there. We find simple recipes engagingly explained, easy to follow, and complexly spiced. This is the food of the Third World, where the vast majority of home kitchens lack modern culinary gizmos and most of its chefs cook over wood. Samuelsson has adapted the foods of Africa to the convenience and the larder of the Western kitchen, without compromising the authentic flavors of the continent, while adding a fresh, contemporary nuance of his own.

His take on the chicken and peanut stew of Mali is brilliant, the Ugandan tilapia and black-bean soup with avocado superb, the Senegalese fish and rice stew seductively complex, the South African beef skewer with plum sauce assertively satisfying. This is world-class cuisine, disguised as simple peasant fare from an undiscovered continent, revealed here by Samuelsson in a delicious new way.

Marcus Samuelsson will be appearing at the Central Market Cooking School, Friday, January 19. Call 458-3068 for details.

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