Ancestral Cooking Forum
1807 ACCOUNT OF AFRICAN FOODS
Here is an excerpt of African foods in the early 19th century. I have provided a link if you would like to read the ebook, which is listed below.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Observations Upon The Windward Coast Of
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Title: Observations Upon The Windward Coast Of Africa
Author: Joseph Corry
Release Date: June 6, 2004 [EBook #12539]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA ***
Produced by Carlo Traverso, Willy De la Court and Distributed
Observations upon the windward coast of Africa
[Illustration: A MANDINGO CHIEF, and his HEADMAN, in their COSTUME, & other NATIVES]
BY JOSEPH CORRY.
WITH AN APPENDIX,
numerous, of a nondescript species, and exceedingly beautiful: the most singular are termites, destructive to houses and fences built of wood; ants, causing ruin to provisions; cockroaches and crickets, destroying leather, linen, and clothes; musquitos, sand-flies, centipedes, scorpions; and wild bees, which are very productive of honey. The vermis and large barnacles abound, which are so destructive to shipping without copper bottoms.
Esculent vegetables are various: Rice, which forms the chief part of the African's sustenance. The rice-fields or lugars are prepared during the dry season, and the seed is sown in the tornado season, requiring about four or five months growth to bring it to perfection.
Yams, a nutritious substance, known in the West Indies.
Cassada or cassava, a root, of a pleasant taste when roasted or boiled, and makes an excellent cake, superior in whiteness to flour.
Papaw, of a deep green in its growth, but yellqw when ripe, and is an excellent dish when boiled; its leaves are frequently used by the natives for soap; ropes are made of the bark.
Oranges and limes are in great abundance, and of superior quality, throughout the year; but lemons degenerate much in their growth, and in a few years are scarcely to be distinguished from the latter. Guavas, pumpkins, or pumpions, squash water mellons, musk mellons, and cucumbers, grow in the greatest perfection. The pumpkins grow in wild exuberance throughout the year, and make a good pudding or pie.
Indian corn, or maize, may be reaped several times throughout the year, only requiring about three months growth.
Millet, with a multiplicity too tedious to enumerate.
Sugar canes are not very abundant, but are of a good quality, which, under careful management and industry, would, no doubt, yield productive returns.
Coffee trees, of different nondescript species, only requiring the same interference.
Dyes, of infinite variety and superior texture: yellow is procured from the butter and tallow tree, producing a juice resembling gamboge, but more cohesive, and of a darker colour; the wood of this tree is firm, and adapted to a variety of purposes; its fruit is about the size of a tennis ball, nearly oval, thick in the rind, and of a pleasant acid taste, containing several seeds about the size of a walnut, and yielding a viscous substance used by the natives in their food. Red and black are procured from a variety of other trees and plants; and indigo growing in wild exuberance, particularly in the rivers more to the northward.
Cotton, in great varieties, requiring only cultivation to raise it to perfection and amount. The natives manufacture from it a narrow cloth, which is made from thread, spun in a manner similar to the distaff.
A species of silk cotton, or ether down, is produced on a large tree, called the pullam tree. The quantity which the usual size bears may be computed at about 4 cwt. in pods of 6 to 9 inches long, 4-1/2 in circumference, and about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, which, upon being exposed to the heat of the sun, is distended to an incredible bulk. It is much superior to down for the couch, and, from its elasticity, might be of great utility in the manufacture of hats. This tree is in great estimation among the Africans, and is frequently regarded by them as their Fetish. Every town almost has a tree of this species towering over its huts, which its chief tells the traveller with exultation he or his father planted.
Tobacco is uncertain, but I entertain very little doubt that it might be raised upon the more luxuriant soils.
Pepper, more particularly near Cape Mount, of several sorts, Maboobo, Massaaba, Massa, Amquona, Tosan, &c.; the three first are of a weaker flavour, and are oblong and angular in their seeds; but the last excels in pungency, and is the native Malaguetta pepper of Africa.
The bread-fruit tree, is similar in appearance to the apple tree, and grows in the low sandy situations of the Boolum shore, producing a fruit exceedingly nutritious, and larger than an apple.
Tamarinds in great variety and plenty: the velvet tamarind abounds in the Bananas, also the white and brown; but the latter are most in esteem, and are very fine.
Okras, the fruit of a small tree, resembling the English mallows, which put into soup gives it a gelatine quality, highly alimental; the leaves make a good spinage.
The palm tree, producing the oil so denominated, is one of the most useful trees to the African, yielding him meat, drink, and raiment. Where it grows, it is an indication of a good soil. It is remarkably tall, without branches, having regular and gradual protuberances, from the bottom towards the top, ending in five or six clusters of nuts, shaded by large deciduous leaves. The nuts, which are about the size of a hazle nut, have a hard kernel, encompassed by a clammy unctuous substance, covered by a thin skin, and the oil is produced from them by being exposed to the sun, which, by its influence, opens the juices; subsequent to this exposure, the nuts are put into a boiler full of water, and a liquid, in the process of boiling, flows upon the top, which when skimmed off, soon hardens and turns rancid; the kernel of the nut, after this process, is taken out of the boiler, beat in a paloon, and put into clear water, the shell of the nut sinks, and its contents float upon the surface, which, when skimmed as before, is finally put into a pot, fried, and carefully poured off, producing another kind of oil, used as butter, and having in a great degree its quality.
The wine is extracted from the tree by forming an incision at the bottom of every cluster of nuts, from each of which flows about a gallon of wine per day, for a week, when they are closed until the ensuing season. The liquid, when newly taken from the tree, resembles whey, and in that state has a sweetish agreeable taste, but it soon ferments and grows sour, changing to a strong vinegar of a disagreeable smell: in its fermented state it is most esteemed by the natives, and is productive of inebriety.
A substance overtops the clusters about 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and 3 or 4 feet in height, in a full grown tree, from whence proceeds a stalk, about 4 inches in length, which, on being boiled in water, makes an excellent vegetable resembling cabbage, or rather, in taste, the cauliflower; the leaves of the tree are converted by the natives into baskets, fishing nets, and cloth.
MEDICINAL PLANTS. Colla is highly esteemed by the natives, and they attribute to it the virtues of Peruvian bark; the Portuguese, ascribe the same quality to it, and dispatch from their factories small vessels to collect all they can procure.
Castor Oil Rhinum.-The bush which produces the bud from which this oil and valuable medicine is extracted, grows in great exuberance upon the Windward Coast, and its vicinity. A species of bark is in great abundance also, and is said to be equal in virtue to the Peruvian.
The foregoing enumeration of natural productions, is the result of unscientific enquiry only; but unquestionably, industrious and professional research, would discover infinitely more to philosophic and commercial contemplation, and develope the arcana of nature, dormant here through ignorance and barbarism.
On the 10th of May, I set out from Bance Island, with the view of exploring the two branches of the Sierra Leone river, the Rochelle, and the Port Logo. After rowing a few hours I arrived at the factory of Miffaré, formerly occupied by a Mr. Berauld, a Frenchman, but now attached to Bance Island.
Mr. Hodgkin, with his people, then in possession of the factory, accompanied me up the Port Logo branch the following morning, taking a number of towns in our way, and visiting the chiefs. The course of this branch of the river is extremely serpentine, and is navigable for light vessels to a little way from the town of Port Logo which is now the residence of Alimami, a Mandingo chief, who assumes the title of emperor. The banks are overgrown with the mangrove tree, interwoven together, so as to form an almost impenetrable thicket, excluding the air, which, with the extreme heat of the sun, and the noxious insects which are extracted by its rays from the swamps and woods, renders this navigation intolerably oppressive. The chief part of its trade is in slaves, camwood, and ivory, the latter, however, being small, although Port Logo commands a very extensive back country. When we came near the town of Port Logo, which is extremely difficult of approach at low water, we announced our visit by saluting in the manner of this country, which is what they call bush firing, or in other words is a continued irregular firing of musquetry.