Food: an integral part of culture

Aleecha: a common Eritrean dish made of curried vegetables which you are sure to love.

Many years ago one of my children’s friends entered our home for the first time. He was only 7 at the time. A really nice kid with one of those great big smiles that could melt a mama’s heart. I’ll never forget it… as he walked in the door, I overheard him say: “Wow, it smells like Africa here!” He was right, it did smell like Africa. I was making a traditional Eritrean meal for dinner: injera, tzigny, aleecha, salad… the works.

I naturally guessed that he had tasted Eritrean or Ethiopian food (which are very similar) before and asked him if he liked it.  His reply surprised me though: “No, I’ve never had African food before. I just knew that it smelled like Africa when I walked in, I don’t know why though. The funny thing is that child didn’t know I am an African.  My daughter joked that “everyone knows the smell of Africa!”

Some years later, when I opened Mama Afrika in a “brick and mortar” shop; I heard the same thing of the store. “It even smells like Africa”. I read once that our sense of smell is what links us the closest to our memories. Of all our senses, it isn’t sight or sound… its smell.  And each time that I cook aleecha, it reminds me of my mother cooking over a hot stove when my aunts or her friends came to visit.

Since I love food and I love Africa, I’ve decided to share recipes from time to time on my website which will help you bring the smell of Africa into your home.   And, of course, it will also bring the color and rich wonderful flavors of Africa cuisine into your home too!

Here is my first dish: Eritrean Aleecha, a vegan dish that is sure to please you, your family and guests. It is a quick, inexpensive and delicious dish to make.

I was inspired to chose it after a recent trip to my local organic farmer’s market. The carrots were beautiful, sweet and I couldn’t leave home without them!

When looking for inspiration for my first dish, I found it in these beautiful carrots from my local organic farmer’s market

I hope that you enjoy it!  And if you have a special African recipe from your childhood that you would like to share here, please do!  I’d be happy to try it, I’m sure that your “mama Africa” filled your home with some incredible aromas too.  Share them…

Salam, (“Peace” in Eritrea’s widely-spoken Tigrinya language)


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