One of my favorite things about living in NYC is the diversity of cultures. Growing up in Newport News, Virginia, there were primarily Blacks, Whites and Asians. I came to New York for the first time as a freshman at Columbia College. I was astonished that other brown people walking in the city expected me to understand them when they spoke to me in French and Spanish.
I had no prior concept of French-speaking Haitians or brown Dominicans. I primarily knew southern Blacks. I actually dated a Dominican man and later a Haitian man. My southern father joked, “Aren’t there any American Blacks in New York?” Obviously, there are… because I ended up marrying one! However, I love exploring the variety of cultures in New York.
Although my family enjoys traveling together, I feel like I can experience practically every culture in the world without leaving my home in NYC. My family attends many cultural events to learn the history and traditions of various groups. The two things that tend to connect us the most, though, are the music (because we like to dance) and the food (because we like to eat).
It amuses me that my 11-year-old son’s favorite foods are sushi and Indian food, cuisines that I had not tasted until I went to college. Of course, we also enjoy the various foods of the African diaspora — not just in Black History Month but every month.
If I had to name favorites, there are a few recipes from the African diaspora my family loves. This first dish is called Egunsi with Spinach. It is amazing. Yemisi, one of my dear friends from Nigeria, prepared this dish for my family and we can’t get enough of it.
Another favorite is Easy Jamaican Curried Chicken. Various Jamaican friends have made curry for me over the years. Although traditional Jamaican cooks add their own herbs to the mix, it’s primarily about the right curry powder with this dish.
And then there is my Easy Southern Pan Fried Chicken, which represents my beloved South. If you ask 10 different people with Southern roots how to cook fried chicken, then you will probably get 10 different answers. The truth is that we’re all right, because it’s based on how each person likes their final chicken prepared.
In any event, I hope that you take some time in the month of February to explore the various cultures within the African diaspora. If you can prepare a traditional dish and/or dine at a Black-owned restaurant, then the experience will be all the greater!