The crops and cuisine of groups living in the delta area of the Congo river in the mid 19th Century is interesting in that there apparently was little processing of crops, other than cassava. Of course, Sir Richard Burton‘s data comes only from the season he was there, and he gives no information on processing fresh crops for post-harvest use.
Meat rarely appears; river fish, fresh or sun-dried, is the usual “kitchen,” eaten with manioc, toasted maize, and peeled, roasted, and scraped plantain: vegetables and palm-oil obtained by squeezing the nut in the hands, are the staple dish, and beans are looked upon rather as slaves’ food. They have no rice and no form of ‘daily bread’…
…The greens, cabbages, spinach, and French beans, mentioned by Tuckey*, have been allowed to die out. Tea, coffee, sugar, and all such exotics, are unappreciated, if not unknown; chillies, which grow wild, enter into every dish, and the salt of native manufacture, brown and earthy, is bought in little baskets.
*Capt. Tucky headed a multidisciplinary expedition into the area in 1816 and some of the agronomic results of that trip will be discussed in an upcoming blog.
Source: Burton-Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo, vol 2, 1872 [travels were in 1863]
Why beans were looked upon as slaves’ food is not explained; perhaps because [apparently] the Portuguese originally planted beans [and cassava] as crops that could be dried and then brought on the slave ships as ‘easy’ food for the slaves. But that opens the question: what fuel would have been used on the ships for cooking?!
- Palm Oil Family Production in Congo (lokoleyacongo.wordpress.com)
- Palm Oil May Drive Congo’s Economic Growth (lokoleyacongo.wordpress.com)
- Congo Can Grow Much More Without Cutting Rainforest (lokoleyacongo.wordpress.com)