So yesterday on instagram, I commented on the fact that it is still 2018 and people refer to Africa as a monolith, from our food, to our culture, to our language and many more. This is especially a problem when “western” countries are referred to as their own country and not an entire continent. It is very frustrating for us Africans who hail from different countries and are unique on our own. But amongst my comments, someone pointed out that maybe my instagram handle may be perpetuating this double standard whereby I refer to Canada as Canada but then include African as part of my handle and not Ghana. After this comment, which I appreciated, I started to think if my name was a contradiction to something I preach so much. maybe, I thought to myself, it may be best to change my handle.
I started think back as to why I chose African not Ghanaian, and how I view my cooking. Am I just focusing 100% on Ghanaian cooking or am I looking to inspiration from other African countries. I reflected on my childhood and where my love for cooking came from and have decided that using African better describes my culinary growth and style rather than just Ghanaian. To understand how I came to this conclusion, it is important for me to talk about my upbringing.
To keep things short, I am Ghanaian and was born in Ghana but I split my childhood between four countries: Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Tanzania. Aside from Ghana, Tanzania probably had the biggest influence in my cooking. It was the country where I truly developed a passion for cooking because I lived there at an age (10-14yrs) where I was more comfortable with heat and using the knife and made many meals on my own. At home I was exposed to Ghanaian food but at school, on school trips and time with friends, I was exposed to the cuisine of the Swahili coast, which is a mix of Indian, Bantu and Arabic influences. I went to an international school and at school, we had options for Samosas, biryanis, nyama choma (barbecued meat), pilaus, chapatis, the list goes on. When subway finally took over the lunch options, they brought sandwich options such as paneer (Indian cheese) which was mainly to appeal to the Indian palette. My family even started to take a liken for some of the foods. For one, my dad ate ugali (East African Swallow) pretty much everyday with a Ghanaian soup #fusion. With all of this around me, I developed a palette for these foods, which still influences my cooking to this day.
So reflecting and just my culinary experiences as a child, I cannot truly say that my palette and my cooking is 100% Ghanaian. I think it was important for me to think about the implication of having Canadian plus African. And in reflecting on this name choice, I was able to really look at why I chose The Canadian African as my handle. I hope it clarifies any confusion.