SAKA SAKA: ADVENTURES IN AFRICAN COOKING, SOUTH OF THE SAHARA

By Cuisine2 Minutes
February 12, 2022By Cuisine

ANTO COCAGNE & ALINE PRINCET, MURDOCH BOOKS, $47.99

Gabonese and French chef Anto Cocagne has set herself a massive task: to do justice to the cuisines of more than 50 separate countries that make up sub-Saharan Africa. While African music, art, fashion and literature are enthusiastically embraced in Western circles, the vastly varied food of this region remains relatively unexplored. This vibrant look-at-me book not only presents the food, but invites us to see it through the flamboyant lens of artists, actors, writers, musicians, a choreographer and a fashion designer, all of whom are champions of sub- Saharan African culture and who fold their own heritage, food stories and favourites into the mix. Naturally, with such a vast ground to cover, it’s an overview rather than a close study, especially as the author explains that there is no unifying thread joining the distinct cuisines, though some common ingredients and preparations recur. But here are about 70 recipes to get you started if, like me, you’re a newcomer to the topic. Yassa chicken, thiep bou dien (rice with fish) and rabbit kedjenou all look enticing. Sourcing ingredients might be your biggest challenge. The book is not without its inconsistencies: despite saying in the introduction that the pattern of a starter followed by a main and dessert is not something that is part of African cultures, that is how the recipes are presented. After saying that most meals would end with fresh fruit, I wonder if the desserts are genuinely African dishes or just recipes given an African flavour such as baobab crème brûlée or sorghum cup cakes. I would have liked more context about each recipe, if only to anchor it to its source country, but the background information that can be gleaned adds up to a fascinating glimpse. TRACY WHITMEY