"Creole food," writes Jessica B. Harris, author of The Africa Cookbook and Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons, "the preeminent taste of the Atlantic Rim of the New World, is a triumphant food that comes from sorrow's kitchens. It was conceived in the kitchens of the hemisphere's big houses, casas grandes, fazendas, and plantations, and nurtured over coal pots and three-rock stoves in the slave cabins and shanties of the black shack alleys." Creole food is composed rice dishes, abundant hot sauces, dumplings and fritters, seasoning pastes like sofrito and Bajan seasoning. All that and much, much more. Harris cracks the subject wide open with Beyond Gumbo, her beautifully written, carefully researched, lovingly created seminal work.
There's a helpful glossary of ingredients right up front, and sources for the more obscure spices and the like. Her chapters break out as "Appetizers," "Soups and Salads," "Condiments and Sauces" (this chapter alone is worth the price of the book), "Vegetables," "Main Dishes," "Starches," "Desserts," "Beverages," and "Menus." You'll find Green Mango Salad from French Guyana; Black Bean Soup from Cuba; Creole Tomatoes and Olives from New Orleans; Spinach and Green Bananas from Guadeloupe; Corn Stew from Costa Rica; Quechua-style Chicken Stew from Peru; Roast Pork with Passion Fruit Sauce from Costa Rica; and Aunt Sweet's Seafood Gumbo from New Orleans.
The flavors are compelling, layered, often highly spiced--this is the food where Africa, Europe, and the New World all came together, the original fusion food. And there is no better guide on this glorious adventure than Jessica B. Harris. She brings scholarship and passion to her subject. Her self-discovery is another ingredient in this rich stew served over rice. Ashé! --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Harris achieves the same balanced blend of personal insight, history and recipes that made her previous works (The Africa Cookbook and The Welcome Table) shine in this examination of creole food. Her first hurdle is defining the word "creole," and she comes up with a credible interpretation representing a fusion of the foods of Africa, the Americas and Europe that is "greater than the multiple dishes that spawned them." Recipes are top-notch, and Harris never skips an opportunity to illuminate in a header. Some of these notes report the origins of a dish, as in the header for Limpin' Susan, a rice and okra dish from South Carolina that is a cousin to the better-known Hoppin' John. Harris generously credits far-flung friends who have provided ideas and recipes and sometimes re-creates their notes on the dishes, as in a letter from Chef Fritz Blank of Deux Chemines restaurant in Philadelphia that arrived with his recipe for Pepperpot Soup with Seafood and Pumpkin. For other recipes, she vividly sets a scene, explaining that bites of the Roast Corn of Jamaica are meant to be alternated with coconut, or at least that's what's encouraged by "ladies who plant themselves and a brazier under the shade of a large tree or umbrella and grill away" throughout the Caribbean. Despite the title, there are recipes for eight varieties of gumbo, including Aunt Sweet's Seafood Gumbo. Sometimes cookbook glossaries feel like throw-away elements, but in typical fashion Harris makes good use of hers, not only to define such potentially unfamiliar items as the fruit cherimoya, but also to entertain (chiles "crosspollinate with the speed of rabbits") and inform.
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