Wanderlust: Senegal

I want to travel everywhere. I think this is a common sentiment. And while I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do some roving in my young life I’m still trying to get to one of my early “destination fascinations”: Senegal and West Africa. In 1996, in reference to the country’s capital, Dakar, Howard French at the NY Times declared, “...nowhere has the marriage between Europe and Africa been as thoroughly consummated.” I can get behind this because I love the products of hybrid cultures.

Like many people, I too discovered West Africa by way of Europe. I studied French language in high school and college and learned about all the different places France had colonized, with special interest in Africa’s colonization in the 17th century. Out of all of France's occupied territories, Senegal has spent the most time under the country's control, becoming independent in just 1960.

So, while I'm patiently waiting to visit Senegal, I have the unparalleled privilege of living in New York City, home to the majority of Senegalese-Americans. In Harlem, just down the road from our very own Red Rooster is the infamous Le Petit Senegal. There is plenty of media coverage of the neighborhood, which stretches an undetermined length across 116th street (and surrounding), made up of Senegalese vendors, West Africa social clubs and most importantly Senegalese food. Here's a quick breakdown:

Most Senegalese food spots in Harlem have a similar vibe and menu. They are often modestly lit, either very busy or nearly vacant (the neighborhood loves take-out) and usually don't adhere to the menu, so experiences can vary. Here are some that I have tried and enjoyed (on at least one occasion).

Le Baobab 120 W 116th St Possibly the most lo-fi of the list, you won't feel out of place in Le Baobob. The food is great (they will usually only have one or two dishes to choose from depending on when you go) and the service counter is friendly. "Merci" goes a long way.

Kaloum 126 W 116th St Just a few doors down from Le Baobob, Kaloum tends to get a few more mentions in the media, often for its long standing presence and introduction of African food to many Harlem residents.

Africa Kine 256 W 116th St Possibly the most hi-fi of the list, Africa Kine feels a lot more like restaurants New Yorkers are used to. The classic limited selection of dishes still exists, but what they serve and when they serve it is definitely more consistent. Their website is a little funny but it's nice that they have one.

Keur Sokhna 2249 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd This is the only one I haven't had the pleasure of dining in yet. Reviews look good and most people comment on its relatively pristine service setting.

Patisserie Des Ambassades 2200 8th Ave PDA is a soft introductory experience to Senegalese food and is an experience. Part cafe (the coffee isn't the worst, but the house-made croissants are unbelievable), part Senegalese sandwich shop, PDA serves an eclectic menu, the coolest of which is the croque-monsieur, served with turkey instead of ham, for the Afro-Muslim lunch crowd.

For more travel stories by Mac Malikowski:

Small Small - Proudly Sourced From Ethiopia

Word is out about new food company and social enterprise called Small Small, and we couldn’t be more excited to highlight their mission. Aimed at bringing Ethiopian food culture to a broader scale, Small Small’s first project is selling traditional hot sauce and Berbere spice sourced directly from Ethiopia.

Berbere is a chili-spice blend that is essential to many Ethiopian dishes, which is also used to season the Fried Yard Bird at Red Rooster. The inspiration for the hot sauce is a red pepper sauce called awaze, which is the most popular sauce in the country. A portion of each sale from Small Small goes to a program that teaches modern agriculture to the Ethiopian farmers where the resources are coming from, so that they grow better crops, become more stable, and increase profitability.

Before founding Small Small, founder George Roche worked as a management consultant with a focus on food security and agriculture. Through his experience, he realized that investment dollars to the food and agriculture sphere in developing countries were not going towards long-term improvements. A trip to Africa sparked his concept to come up with a novel way of tackling such a problem. Despite all the food problems and lack of food security in Africa, there was still such a vibrant and vital food culture. Roche wanted to bring that experience and culture back to the US, where he felt he could apply that vibrancy on a larger scale and give back to the farmers who are providing us with such an adventurous and authentic culinary experience. The name 'Small Small' comes from a commonly used African idiom meaning "little by little".  It's the perfect way to describe the goal of the company, which is to make a small change with every purchase.

Photos courtesy of Small Small

A Celebration of African Heritage and Health

A few days ago, you couldn't find my kitchen table as I anticipated correctly that every corner was covered by bowls and dishes of leafy greens, cabbages, millet, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, and layers of injera – the traditional whole-grain flatbread of Ethiopia. These were just some of the menu items I planned for an African heritage potluck I hosted to commemorate African Heritage & Health Week.

African Heritage & Health Week is an exciting new initiative founded by Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage. During this kick-off week to Black History Month, Oldways invites everyone everywhere to enjoy at least one meal with African roots. To help diners explore, we have created a new “African Heritage Dine Around Town” section on the Oldways website that offers dining destinations across the nation. If a meal at home shared with family and friends is more appealing, Oldways suggests making Jollof Rice. This is a traditional African rice dish that is delicious and healthy, plus budget friendly.

Guests at my African Heritage & Health Week potluck were also my former students – an amazing group of men and women who participated in the piloting of Oldways’ new cooking class series, A Taste of African Heritage. Over the course of six weeks, these students celebrated the healthy history of African heritage, learned about the innate nutrition of the old ways, and cooked up an array of traditional, plant-based meals.

The essence of the African Heritage & Health program is that of celebration - showing that many of today's most applauded foods in the nutrition world have African and African American roots. Because of the way African American ancestors ate and lived, they saw little to no chronic disease - a stark difference from today. Oldways’ African Heritage Diet brochure's cover line reads: "Diabetes is not a part of African heritage. Neither is heart disease." It's this celebratory spirit combined with the reality of the heritage, that draws me to teach through the old ways and keeps me inspired every day.

A major part of human history is the food that has shaped and sustained cultures around the world. We hope to see a sharp rise in the popularity of the delicious flavors and traditional foods that offer a key to better health in the African community. African Heritage & Health Week is an opportunity to raise awareness and elevate this cuisine, which is far from the unhealthy soul food some might think of. There’s no better time to dedicate a week to African Heritage & Health than during Black History Month.

What will you do?

 

Sarah Dwyer is the African Heritage & Health Program Manager at Oldways.

Photos courtesy of the author.

Is the United States Good for Immigrants Health?

Acculturation, the process of adopting the cultural norms and values of the dominate or local personages, is a necessary step for people that migrate to the United States. But, how much adjustment is needed to achieve the desired fit? How much should a person leave behind and what should they keep as their ethnic identity?

Recently, acculturation has come to light to assist in the study of the health of different ethnic groups in the United States.  Some studies on cultural adaptation and health, suggest that immigrant groups, like Asians and Latinos, ate better diets in their country of origin then when they migrated to the United States. Specifically, research proposes that when these nonnative groups come to the States and adopt our eating habits and consume our quality of foods, their diets decrease in nutritional value resulting in increased rates of cancer, infant mortality, and other signs of poor bodily health. However, most of the studies done on the health effects of moving to this country have only been done on people from Asian or Latin countries, little work has been done with people from Africa that migrate to this country.

Dr. Kristie Lancaster, a Professor of Nutrition at New York University and a registered dietitian, currently is collecting data to understand the differences between what Ghanians eat in their home land and what they consume once they move to the United States. Also, she hopes to identify the eating patterns in Africa that are healthy, and promote those habits in the African American community. Though the study is not complete she does believe that Ghanians are effected nutritionally when they move to this country. People from Ghana consume a diet centered around a stew served with a small portion of meat and yams. Furthermore, this region of Africa boils and bakes most of their foods, and though oil is prevalent in the stews the fat does not compare to the amount the average American eats at a single meal. According to the website oldwayspt.org, which created the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, African rooted eating habits consists of a large amount of whole, fresh, and colorful fruits and vegetables, especially thick green foliage and tubers like sweet potatoes and yams, a variety of different beans, peanuts, rice, cornmeal, healthy oils, eggs, fish, poultry, and yogurt with minimal ingestion of red meat and sweets. The problems that arise in the African communities once they relocate to the US lie in the lack of familiar foods and accessibility to grocery stores that sell unprocessed, nutrimental foods.

Understanding the multifaceted components of acculturation and the resulting health problems of the nonnative population helps identify the underlying reasons for the high rates of morbid diseases surrounding the US population and betters our health as a whole. The increased awareness and comprehension of the role of adaptation in immigrant’s behaviors, well-being, and health-care assists public health officials in implementing guidelines that promote healthy eating habits, improve birth outcomes, reduce the amount of alcohol and illicit drug use, and ensure that newcomers to this country settle in efficiently and contentedly.

 

Street Culture In Motion: Interview With Swedish Filmmaker Teddy Goitom

It’s often said that the way to get a real grasp of a new culture is to take a look at its street culture. In a country’s streets is where you’ll most likely find its true popular culture, what interests its people, its local art, and its most genuine food. Very often, it’s from the streets where the hottest new movements come from and the first to witness a phenomenon in its original street stage are sometimes only a privileged few.

But one media company is working to change that “privileged few” concept and are drawing attention to street culture from all around the world in hopes to educate people of new countries, cultures, and arts through curated videos that anyone can view online. That company is STOCKTOWN and one of the masterminds behind STOCKTOWN.com is Swedish filmmaker Teddy Goitom.

Teddy along with other film friends and enthusiasts created STOCKTOWN, a curated video magazine for culture in motion and since its recent start has continued to grow in popularity, eliminating the boundaries and cultural walls between countries forming a worldwide community of viewers. Just recently, STOCKTOWN was proud to announce their launch of the newly renovated site and in honor of Swedish National Day today, we want to bring attention to this awesome video web site that was born on the shores of Sweden with a one-on-one interview with this Teddy Goitom himself.

Check out our interview with Teddy below and if you’re in New York today you can see STOCKTOWN in action at Show & Tell NYC, where they will screen their Stocktown X South Africa film followed by Show & Tell session of curated videos, a visit from legendary street photographer Jamel Shabazz, and various DJ performances. Click here for more details.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and Stocktown.

I'm a filmmaker based in Sweden and I run a network called Stocktown. It's a network of filmmakers and videotaste makers, not only based in Sweden but internationally. Our focus is documenting culture and we've been doing it since 1997, not only through film but also through exhibitions, concerts, and lately (through the last 5 years or so) through photography and video documentation of what's going on in the urban cities around the world.

Stocktown.com is a video magazine. It's created for people who want to share their videos and write about them. It's about finding interesting videos with the theme of street culture. Street culture nowadays is very broad. It can be documentaries, it can art, it can be dance, it can be music. You can find street culture anywhere and that's what we want to show; that's our main focus.

What are some of the countries you've shot your documentary in?

The current project I'm working on is in South Africa and it's called "Stocktown X South Africa" and it's part of a longer TV series. Two years ago we started to have a research lab about where we wanted to find out what is going on in major cities of Africa including Johannesburg and we found that there is so much activity going on today. We found a lot of interesting photographers and music and we found that there was a creative underground revolution going on.  So we decided to go there also because it was the world cup last year and thought that we would combine the two things.

We went there for six weeks and made the documentary as portraits of people with creative talents. Everything from music, fashion, film... it is about their story. The documentary is about how these creative individuals see themselves in the future and what they think the future holds for them. It is about how they see themselves today and tomorrow. It is a lot about the future. It isn't different from young people's visions that we meet in the US or Paris or anywhere else.

We also featured new music genres that are evolving. There is a music genre called Lim Pop.  There are also video gamers and a lot of interesting things happening with them. That is why we chose to go to South Africa. I also feel that it is important for me to note that I have done this with my friend Benjamin Taft; he is my co director.

What are other cities you are featuring and what is the focus in each city?

We will highlight the animation scene and visual graphics in Kenya, Nairobi. People working with visual graphics and animation are some of our major focuses for Nairobi. There is a lot happening in the digital arts scene. It is great because you wouldn't think to head to Kenya for the digital art scene. We did become frustrated with those stereotypical stories that came out everyday about violence and crime... we are not denying that those things are there, but we wanted to showcase stuff that we are interested in like music.  We didn't make this out of a political decision; we decided to do this because music and other creative outlets are topics that we are interested in.

What exactly drew you to street culture?

You know, it's people. I mean I have always been fascinated by people's fascination in itself. People are either sneaker collectors or into art. I am always interested in how the underdog develops into something huge. I liked documenting it instead of being involved in the culture. It is always interesting and I've seen it grow. You can find it in Cambodia and South Africa because the digit era is here. People use the Internet now. It was difficult in the 1980's and even the 1990's because we only had access to television and videos. The Internet is basically accessible everywhere now.

What is a reoccurring theme that you have noticed from the people that you have interviewed?

The thing that I saw similar, for example, in South Africa is that there is a great awareness about what is going on in other countries.  For example, they are giving us links to what is happening in Japan.  Young people want to go beyond being just part of their neighborhood and their local society. They also want to be part of the world and there is no limit. People want to know how they can get by in other countries as well.

Did you see them also drawing from their tradition customs or also breaking away from that and going into a different direction?

They reinvented their traditional culture in South Africa through music. The beats are from South Africa, but we can hear that they have taken influences from other cultures. There is a mixed culture--that's what is going on. You see that in all types of genres, especially fashion and art. It becomes something new and that is always happening in the field of art. They are not reinventing something, but they are remixing something to make it new. In street culture we are living in a remix culture, trying to find our own identity. We are also trying to find other places where we can feel identified.

For more information about StockTown X South Africa, check out Teddy's web site here. Check out a clip of the movie below...

Stocktown X South Africa Trailer from Stocktown on Vimeo.