UAA’s African Diaspora culinary class

The African Diaspora class features cooking methods for authentic West African dishes and explains how countries were influenced by the Atlantic slave trade.

Culinary students cooking African influenced southern cuisine. Photo by Hannah Dillon.

UAA’s Culinary Arts program hosted an African Diaspora class on three separate Saturdays from late January through early February in Lucy Cuddy Hall. The class is a 490 level class that teaches students from any major how to cook regional varieties of West African inspired dishes.

Fatoumata Faye is a former UAA culinary student who now teaches African Diaspora classes through authentic experience. Faye originates from the West African country of Gambia, where many dishes that are taught at the program are her specialties.

Each day of the class involves food from a different region that follows the Atlantic slave trade and how each region’s cuisine was affected or inspired.

The first day of class introduces authentic Gambian foods. “We call it Supakanja which is a West African okra stew that we make. Depending on what country you are from, it’s made differently but most of it is okra with different meats and different seafood,” said Faye.

Other Gambian cuisines that students are able to make include jollof rice, chicken curry, a ginger drink and a hibiscus flower drink called Sorrel. Faye said the national dish for Gambia is Domada, a peanut butter stew which quickly becomes the favorite of anyone who tastes it.

The second week of class is dedicated to the African inspiration on southern cuisine. Students rush throughout the kitchen, preparing to cook fried chicken, collard greens, rice pudding, hoppin’ Johns, jambalaya and gumbo. Gumbo is influenced by Supakanja, and jambalaya’s inspiration stems from the one-pot dish jollof rice.

The final week of class incorporates the African influence on South American foods. These foods include feijoada, Jamaican beef patty, oxtail, fish stew, chicken curry and Paella.

“It’s really amazing to see that food definitely travels. And wherever people go, yes they do take that culture, but much of that culture is through food and through that you can learn so much,” said Faye.

Culinary students were not the only members to register for the short class. Faye mentioned some students saw flyers around campus and took part in the course who had no, or very little, prior culinary experience.

The Northern Light was able to view the students preparing food on the day of Southern states’ influence and two students commented on their experience making food during the class.

Fatoumata Faye helping students in the kitchen. Photo by Hannah Dillon.

Both students already attend a culinary program, but they each mentioned how fun the experience preparing authentic cuisines was.

“I’m actually part African, so I thought it would be cool to learn my home roots by making food,” said one student while preparing fried chicken.

Faye said the best part of the class is introducing people to new foods and ingredients including beef tripe, smoked catfish, snail and cow foot.

The class has been taught for two semesters but there will be more to attend. Faye also wishes to expand her horizons to teach North and East African foods, along with West African cuisine influence.

“Come try it out. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of cooking, and a lot of eating. It will definitely surprise you, the things that you are trying that you would never have tried before,” said Faye.