Monday, March 15, 2010
Food for Thought--Africa, Spain and the Peanut
Last night I made a delicious dinner. I made Peanut Chicken stew, stir-fried greens, brown rice and fried sweet potato wedges. Even my little one licked his plate. And el esposo, who initially turned his nose up at chicken cooked with peanut butter, ate four pieces of chicken and swore he was packing the leftovers for his lunch today.
Besides the fact that I was proud of myself for actually following a recipe ( I admit, I have problem following directions in the kitchen. I'm more of a fly by the seat of her pants kind of chef.) from this wonderful cookbook called Soul and Spice: African Cooking in the Americas, I loved the way all of the flavors of my meal came together so well. Without meaning to, I crafted a meal that harkened straight back to Africa. The sweet potatoes, the greens. I felt very ethnic last night. Very in touch with my ancestors. Does that ever happen to you?
Now, as we were gorging ourselves on this rich, savory stew, I asked el esposo if the peanut was used in cooking in Spain. He said, not really. For the most part, the peanut in Spain is simply a fruto seco, or a snack food. Even peanut butter is a rarity in Spain. But as we started talking about it, I started to wonder where the peanut actually came from? When you think about it, many cultures use peanuts in their cuisine. I always thought peanuts where indigenous to Africa. But then again, I love Thai food and Vietnamese cuisine so much because of their liberal use of peanuts and peanut butter. So I did a little searching.
Guess who introduced the peanut to Africa? The Spaniards!!! Yes, according to (ahem) peanut historians, the peanut was most likely a native plant of Brazil or Peru. Spanish explorers took it back to Spain, then introduced it to Africa and Asia. When the Africans were brought to North America as slaves, they brought the peanuts with them. Fascinating, no? I think food history is so interesting. Don't you?
To read more about world peanut history, check out this website.
So I'm curious. What culture and/or cuisine do you think of when you think peanuts? Got a favorite peanut dish? Please share.
(p.s. That photo of chicken stew is not mine. It comes from a website called, The Spiced Life.)