When asked to find a text to look at for Afrofuturism, I thought I’d look at a topic that everyone is involved with everyday, food. Food is an important part of everyone’s life and it can be a source of connection and community for people. So I found a cookbook that is focused on taking a new look at food from regions of the African Diaspora and making vegan recipes out of traditional Africa, Caribbean, and Southern US foods. (The first issue with this text is the creation of vegan foods, with this being a predominantly upper-class, western trend in its modern form.) Afro-Vegan, by Chef Bryant Terry, is a book that takes the ingredients of traditional cooking to a new and more futuristic stage. Terry presents recipes with the historical inspiration giving the reader a more genuine and in depth approach to the dishes. The vegan reinvention of these recipes are where I saw aspects of Afrofuturism. Traditionally, African cuisine can be either vegetarian, or omnivorous, depending on availability of ingredients. But with this cookbook, African cuisine can be made with respect to the past while also being mindful of modern ethical discussions.
In my view, when it comes to reinventing traditional food, there needs to be a special care taken to preserve the roots of the cuisine. The cookbook opened my eyes to the intersectionality that is at those roots of those cuisines. The recipes that Terry presents are those that were made out of necessity, due to class. Made under circumstances that are directly tied to race. And made by folks in roles that were specified by gender. Without an understanding of these issues, and a respect for its origins, food that is “reinvented”, especially to please western palate, can come across as a gentrification of the food itself. Terry attempts to keep that history alive by intertwining the history with his recipes and I believe he succeeds. This cookbook allows us to repeat the processes of the past, respect the circumstances under which this cuisine has evolved, while pushing the food to new heights. I know that food hasn’t come up in class and I am not sure it will because there are a lot of more important topics to cover, but cookbooks like this not only teach me about the food, but the history and conditions that the cuisine had to be made under to feed people. It definitely helped make the topic of Afrofuturism a little less abstract in my mind.