The African Foods You Thought Were American

person holding black and brown seeds
Briona Lamback
February 19, 2024

The diaspora's most cherished crops, like yam, plantain, sweet potato, watermelon, okra, black-eyed peas, and rice, are foods we carried across the Atlantic.

Alongside the enslaved, these indigenous food staples were cargo, too, and they helped sustain our people as their captors carried them into the unknown. Beyond sustenance, women quietly resisted by carrying rice seeds in their hair, unbeknownst to enslavers.

Once in the Americas, we adapted. We also adapted the crops we've always known, finding alternative ways to grow them in unfamiliar soil. Rice growing thrived in the US South. Plantain flourished in the tropical conditions of the Caribbean. Black-eyed peas found a home in Brazil. 

We carried these foods. But they also carried us, and today, we're still benefiting from these nutrient-dense staples and the delicious ways we serve them, whether new or traditional.

A medley of tomatoes, sausage, and rice makes up the red rice eaten in South Carolina. Unripe plantain with garlic and pork cracklings is called mofongo in Puerto Rico. 

Acarajé, a fritter made with mashed black-eyed peas and cooked in palm oil, is one of Brazil's most famous street foods. Like our people, our methods of preparing and consuming these foods differ, but the roots have stayed the same.

As our ancestors' seeds did, we survived the journey, were planted elsewhere, and still found beautiful, new ways to bloom.

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