Afrofuturism in Food

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.

3 Replies to “Afrofuturism in Food”

  1. I think this is such a cool idea, especially in the way that it highlights the connection between repetition and reinvention. From my perspective, it seems like food really symbolizes Snead’s way of situating repetition in the context of honoring the past, especially since food has such an emotional and deep significance pretty much spanning all cultures.

  2. This post is really interesting, I never thought about how afrofuturism can be connected to food. I liked how you brought up the fine line between reinventing certain cuisines and appropriating cuisines just to make them for appealing to the modern western diet. It vaguely reminds me of the discussion in class about the differences between aesthetic and activism.

  3. There’s also, to add to Lael and Luke’s comments, a sense in which food can cross the boundary from necessity to art, which you’re getting at with your point about trends towards the vegan, Grainger (though we must be culturally aware here – what is upper middle class fad in parts of Park Slope might be traditional and economically or agriculturally necessary or culturally valued in parts of Okinawa or Puerto Rico or Ghana, say).

    If you keep going with this, I would be keen to see you thinking through Snead or others’ language a little more fully here – can this food really be futurist? I think you’re really on to something – you have an open door given Snead’s work with “agriculture” as the root of “culture” – that might take us beyond the obvious in exciting ways.

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