Missionaries in 19th Century Africa & How to cook with banana leaves

A photograph of the inside of an unripe wild-t...

Wild banana, showing hard seeds. Wikipedia

A couple of generations after the initial explorers ventured into central Africa,  missionaries were well-settled in these areas.  Major goals included first – learning local languages, then – translating the bible into local languages, and setting up schools.

 The following introduction and a section on cooking techniques found in central Africa were written by a missionary for use in their schools for africans.  It’s a good example of missionizing knowledge about the people with whom they worked.


 It is hoped that this book and its companion volume dealing with non-African peoples will be the beginning of a series of simple, readable accounts for Africans of some of the various objects of general interest in the world of to-day. 

 There are many such works published for the use of English and American children.  But the native African has a totally different experience of life, and much that is taken for granted by a child of a Northern civilized land needs explanation to one used to tropical uncivilized surroundings. 

 Again, the African knows the essential operations of everyday life in their simplest form, whereas the European knows them disguised by an elaborate industrial system.

 All this makes books written for English children almost unintelligible to a member of a primitive race. These two volumes are far from perfect, but it has been difficult to know always how to select wisely from the mass of material at hand.

 They will have served, however, a useful purpose if they form a basis for adaptations into the various African vernaculars, and afford an inspiration for other works of a similar nature.  Thanks are due to Miss K. Nixon Smith, of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, for her kindness in criticizing the MSS. from her long experience of the African outlook.


 Cooking methods with banana leaves:

 The chief food of the Baganda [people located in today’s Uganda] is plantains or bananas, which are peeled when unripe and wrapped in smoke-dried banana leaves.  These packets are slowly cooked with very little water in earthenware cooking-pots.  When the food is cooked it is pressed and beaten, and then the leaves are opened out and make a plate. 

 Other things, such as beans and vegetables and fish, are cooked in the same way, wrapped in banana leaves and then eaten with the bananas

 Source: Edith How-Peoples of Africa, Universities’ Mission to Central Africa    1920

Cooking in banana leaves at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika

This is a technique of cooking that continues to be used because of the unique flavor imparted by the banana leaves.

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-Central, Colonialism, Cuisine, Food, History-Recent, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Missionaries in 19th Century Africa & How to cook with banana leaves

  1. Pingback: “Efforts of Missionaries among Savages” « Dianabuja's Blog

  2. Pingback: Cuisines and Crops of Africa, 19th Century – The Limits of Pastoralism as a Lifestyle « Dianabuja's Blog

  3. Pingback: Sex in the Jungle: Experiences of Victorian Explorers « Dianabuja's Blog

  4. Pingback: Roast African Bullfrog, from D. Livingston’s ‘Missionary Travels & Researaches…’ 1857. « Dianabuja's Blog

  5. Ramata says:


    I’m a grad student from Quinnipiac university in Connecticut and I’m doing a documentary about Africa. I’m writing to ask the right to use some of images about Africa. I will mention your blog in the special thx. My documentary is for non-profit and academic uses.

    I look forward to reading you.



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