Taste of Africa: Lowell family embraces traditions, including culinary trends, for mission message

2013-11-27T00:00:00Z 2013-12-05T18:46:13Z Taste of Africa: Lowell family embraces traditions, including culinary trends, for mission messageBy Stephen Lesniewski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Three special children from a far away land will be especially thankful Thursday, while blending old and new table traditions.

Tommy, Mary and Abdul are spending their first Thanksgiving as a family in Lowell, Ind. after being adopted from Sierra Leone, Africa this summer by George and Rosanne Kouris. The trio lived in the Savior of the World Children's Center in Africa, which George and Rosanne help support.

Savior of the World is an orphanage in Sierra Leone, West Africa and provides food, medicine, housing and education to its inhabitants.

"When we decided to adopt, we asked the lady in charge, Louisa, who we trusted most, who she felt was a good fit for our family," said George Kouris, one of the Board of Directors for Savior of the World, who already has five children of his own.

While both George and Rosanne had planned to adopt Tommy and Mary for several years, the couple said they were "constantly stalled" by the U.S. government, until their two charges turned 18 and were able to apply for a visa. George said he was then able to adopt them as adults, and a few weeks later, the adoption papers for Abdul were also successfully processed.

To raise awareness and collect funds for the Savior of the World, George began the "Taste of Africa," a small sampling of African food to complement George's presentations, with some common American food, such as hot dogs, available for those less adventurous to try authentic dishes.

"We were being asked to talk to this group and that group," George said.

"People come to listen to us, and we thought we should give them a little something to remind them of what we are doing."

In Mid-November, Tommy, Mary and Abdul made an appearance at a "Taste of Africa" event at St. Paul Catholic School in Valparaiso, with Mary preparing all the traditional African dishes.

"I was surprised by the number of kids that were eating it [the African food] and really enjoying it," George said.

"Children in the United States don't typically enjoy that type of food. They look at it, and it looks strange to them; they are really hesitant about trying it."

George is familiar with that hesitation, as he and Rosanne felt the same when they were first offered the cuisine, which is often heavy on spices and relies on root vegetables as a filling staple ingredient and completed with most recipes served with rice. Meat is treated as a rare luxury.

However, George said once he tried the food he enjoyed it. Rosanne even attempted to make her own less spicy version of the dishes. George said this proved slightly problematic since "there are no recipe books in Sierra Leone."

"You don't see anyone with a book cooking," he said.

"These are handed down from mother to daughter. Cooking is done by sight and feel and stirring consistency."

They said Tommy, Mary and Abdul have also grown "quite fond" of some of the U.S. foods. And among their favorites is chicken, which is likely to compete with turkey for the family's 2013 Thanksgiving menu.

Cassava Leaves Stew

1 pound rinsed cassava leaves

3/4 to 1 cup palm oil

1/2 cup crushed peanuts

2 onions diced

4 cups water

3 okra, diced

2 tablespoons of bouillon cubes

Salt and pepper to taste

Smoked or salted fish (optional)

DIRECTIONS: Puree cassava leaves and boil in water. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Saute the onion and add to the boiled leaves. Add peanuts, palm oil, bouillon, salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook on medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add okra and fish, if used. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over white rice. Make 4 small portions.

Recipe courtesy of kadiafricanrecipes.com, adapted

African Pap (thickened cornmeal) with Spicy Vegetables

Pap:

2 1/2 cups cornmeal

4 cups water

Spicy Vegetables:

3 tablespoons fair trade olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 green pepper, finely diced

1 chili pepper, finely diced

2 tomatoes, finely diced

DIRECTIONS: To make pap, boil water and then stir in cornmeal. Simmer, stirring often to prevent burning, until mixture is thick and fluffy and water is absorbed. Set aside while prepping vegetables. Sauté onion and peppers in pan with oil until soft. Add remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 15 minutes. Serve warm over pap. Makes 4 small servings.

Recipe courtesy of Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl

African Bean Cakes served with Rice

1 (14-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled & chopped

1 egg, whisked

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup flour

1/4 cup oil

2 cups cooked rice

DIRECTIONS: Place black-eyed peas in a blender with the onion, carrots, and egg. Blend to a smooth paste and add salt and pepper. If bean mixture has too much liquid to form balls, then add a 1/4 cup of flour to thicken. Shape mixture into 2-inch balls and roll in flour. Pat into flat discs and fry in vegetable oil until browned (about 5-7 minutes), turning occasionally. Serve with rice. Makes 4 small servings.

Recipe courtesy of Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl

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