The African Diet

Throughout Africa, the main meal of the day is lunch, which usually con-legumes: beans, peas, and related plants sists of a mixture of vegetables, legumes, and sometimes meat. However, though different meats are considered staples in many areas, many Africans are not able to eat meat often, due to economic constraints. Beef, goat, and sheep (mutton) are quite expensive in Africa, so these foods are reserved for special days. However, fish is abundant in coastal regions and in many lakes.

The combination of various foods is called stew, soup, or sauce, depending on the region. This mixture is then served over a porridge or mash made from a root vegetable such as cassava or a grain such as rice, corn, millet, or teff. Regional differences are reflected in variations on this basic meal, primarily in the contents of the stew. The greatest variety of ingredients occurs in coastal areas and in the fertile highlands. Flavorings and spiciness have varied principally due to local histories of trade. In the traditional African diet, meat and fish are not the focus of a meal, but are instead used to enhance the stew that accompanies the mash or porridge. Meat is rarely eaten, though it is well-liked among carnivorous (meat-eating) Africans.

Traditional Cooking Methods. Traditional ways of cooking involve steaming food in leaf wrappers (banana or corn husks), boiling, frying in oil, grilling beside a fire, roasting in a fire, or baking in ashes. Africans normally cook outdoors or in a building separate from the living quarters. African kitchens commonly have a stew pot sitting on three stones arranged around a fire. In Africa, meals are normally eaten with the hands.

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