Cuisine and Crops in the Congo Delta, 1863

This map of the Congo delta was apparently ripped out of a book and there is no id for it; probably early to mid 19th.C.

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?!

The Congo watershed is huge; Lake Tanganyika looks like a mere drop in the bucket, to the right of the watershed




About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-West, Agriculture, Colonialism, Cuisine, Explorers & exploration, Food, Indigenous crops & medicinal plants. Bookmark the permalink.

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