When it comes to food, Kwanzaa is a delicious tribute to soul food, African recipes and even Caribbean flavors. Picture a mix of traditional and modern dishes, including fried okra, yassa chicken, Creole gumbo and sweet potato biscuits.
Good thing it's not all crammed into one holiday meal. Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage, is a week long, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday — just 45 years old. It was started by Maulana Karenga, a professor and activist, in 1966 as a non-religious holiday for people of African descent worldwide.
It isn't meant to replace Christmas — in fact, some choose to celebrate both. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa, starting the day after Christmas, is dedicated to a principal, from self-determination to creativity.
Food plays an important role because Kwanzaa is a nod to harvest celebrations in Africa, when communities honor crops and laborers. Karamu, a Kwanzaa feast on Dec. 31, often involves a spread of fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, the word Kwanzaa is from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits of the harvest."
These recipes for Hoppin' John, a Southern dish, and Groundnut Stew, an African meal, are perfect for Kwanzaa:
The hallmark of this West African stew is the thick sauce, a combination of tomato and peanut butter that coats the chicken and vegetables. The protein in groundnut stew varies by region: You'll find chicken, lamb, beef or fish as the main ingredient. For a family-friendly groundnut stew recipe, try this recipe for groundnut stew with chicken from Food & Wine:
Hoppin' John, a Southern dish of black-eyed peas, rice and bacon or ham, is eaten on New Year's Day for luck. It has roots as a West African dish, but it's a soul food staple, too.
The New Year's Southern saying goes: Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold. This Hoppin' John recipe by Emeril Lagasse is one part of the good luck trifecta. Serve with collard greens and cornbread on Jan. 1, and bring on the riches in 2012.
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