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.)


kate said...

Actually I'm very glad that the peanut is not often used in Spanish cuisine, since about almost a year ago my youngest was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. So, no more peanuts or related products in the house for us. Oh well.

Laura said...

Love your blog! Hope you don't mind, but I listed you as one of the blogs on our resource list on our website
Come check us (and you) out!

Dee said...

In my honest opinion, peanut butter is SO American now that I cannot associate it with any other country. Countless candies and snacks are made with peanut butter and don't forget the perennial PB & J sandwich. Nowadays, I'm so used to peanuts and/or peanut butter that I'm indifferent to it. I'm starting to favor other nuts now--hazelnuts and almonds are my nuts of choice. But everyone has their own taste I guess.

Here are links to recipes that you may want to try.


P.S. Thanks to you (and your husband), I have recently been craving all things Spanish...paella, tortilla espanola, gazpacho and sangria. These are the foods and beverages I want to consume for the rest of the year, just as long as someone else does the cooking.

LT said...

I'm sure it must be hard to have a little one with such a serious allergy. But, what a relief to be in a country that doesn't have a love affair with peanuts.

Mind? Of course not! Thanks for the link. I'll be right over.

I agree peanut butter feels very American. And I hope you enjoy all of that Spanish cuisine.

Lauren said...

That cookbook sounds really interesting. I might try to get a copy. I always think of African and Thai cooking in addition to US sweets. I can't think of any savory dishes in US cooking that use peanut butter and even pbj has a sweet element.

Waiting for Zufan! said...

That looks so good! I really need to learn how to cook more things; or find someone to hang out with me who already knows! :) Thanks for the inspiration. :)

LT said...

Def. get the cookbook. Full disclosure, a former classmate of mine from journalism school wrote it. But that's not why it's a great book. The recipes and stories behind the recipes rock!

You're welcome:) And I vote for hanging around other people who know how to cook already and letting them cook for you.

Conscious Transient said...

Oh that sounds heavenly!! I love peanut butter soup (A West African dish-don't knock it until you try it!) and this sounds like a similar improvement!!