During Black History Month this year, Oldways turned up the volume about the flavors and nutrition of African heritage cuisine. To start things off, we launched our first annual African Heritage & Health Week (February 1st-7th) – a week dedicated to exposing people to new tastes and dishes from across the African Diaspora.

All month long, folks across the country celebrated African Heritage & Health in unique ways, discovering and rediscovering the healthy foods that have shaped and reflected African ancestry and culture around the world for centuries.

Here are a few health-through-heritage highlights from Black History Month 2013:

African Heritage & Health Week
During the first week of February, Oldways invited everyone everywhere to try at least one new African heritage dish – either out at a local restaurant or in their own kitchens.

Dine Around Town Page
To help diners find local restaurants, Oldways created a new Dine Around Town webpage that lists African heritage restaurants that are on our radar in every state. Some of these restaurants, including those listed below,  handed out Oldways’ African Heritage Diet 101 brochures to diners during African Heritage & Health Week:

Teranga in Boston, MA

Cazamance in Austin, TX

Taste of the Island in Jackson, MS

Abay Ethiopian Restaurant and Alma Pan-Latin in Pittsburgh, PA

African Heritage & Health Pinterest Page
For home cooking inspiration, blogging pros Chrystal Baker and Sanura Weathers helped Oldways create a delectable African heritage recipe-sharing page on Pinterest!  From Benne Cookies to Pot Liquor Soup, you’ll find dozens of delicious, simple recipes to try at home and share with friends. We’d love for you to join the recipe share!

African Heritage Diet in Haiti
Kristina DeMuth, RD, and the organization Healing Haiti used the African Heritage Diet Pyramid and resources in helping to re-educate Haitian families about their healthy native foods and culinary traditions. More on Kristina’s personal mission and important work in my next blog!

The African Heritage Diet Goes to Washington


African Heritage Advisory Committee Member, Tambra Raye Stevenson, took the African Heritage Diet Pyramid to several events in our nation’s capitol this month, including a Soul Food cook off competition at the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and a workshop called “Know Your Roots and Know Your Food” at Rooting DC.

Tambra also presented the African Heritage Diet to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services Administration, as we work to get the traditional foods and eating patterns of the African Diaspora into important discussions surrounding food justice, policy, and nutrition education this year.

African Heritage & History Community Events
Oldways was very happy to support Black History Month events that featured and shared traditional African foods with communities.

  • The University of Texas at Austin hosted an African American Heritage Dinner on campus, complete
    with African drumming groups. It featured foods like Caribbean Callaloo, Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup, Yataklete Kikil (Ethiopian Gingered Vegetables), and Baked Banana Akwadu for dessert!
  • The Social Justice Learning Institute sponsored a Farm2Plate Culinary Club Cooking Class, taught by Chrystal Baker in Inglewood, CA. The audience learned about the African Heritage Diet and how to make a collard greens dish and groundnut stew using coconut oil. You can read more about the event and recipes here.
  • Community educator, Burnette Scarboro, hosted an African American Heritage Conference at the Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, VA to engage parents, students, school staff and community members in an exploration of African heritage, culture, and history ~ including culinary traditions.
  • On February 24th, Carrye Brown and her husband Larry presented the African Heritage Diet to their community at St. Mark’s Missionary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. The church’s Reverend, Dr. Raymond T. Matthews, is a strong advocate of health and wellness for his congregation. Together, these three are raising awareness through faith and health through heritage.

A Taste of African Heritage Group Potluck
Students from Austin’s A Taste of African Heritage cooking class pilot were reunited for an afternoon of traditional foods and very meaningful conversations about taking a fresh, cultural approach to eating well and eating real foods again.

Our African Heritage Potluck Menu
Creamy, vegan stone-ground corn grits
Blanched collard greens with cashew dressing
Black beans with diced onions, tomatoes, and cilantro
Baked sweet potatoes
Brown rice and slow-cooked Anasazi beans
Whole grain pasta with peppers, zucchini, basil, and olive oil


Whole grain bread made with millet and sesame seeds, smeared with extra virgin coconut oil
Water with sliced lemons
Red wine

Our table was indeed covered and felt very connected to the “old ways” of eating, living, and sharing in the joie de vivre of an afternoon meal with friends. The dishes were so simple, yet so tasty, and all bursting with nutrition and African roots.

As we say goodbye to this historical, meaningful month, I don’t think we could have asked for a nicer array of foods, events, and people joining us to celebrate African Heritage & Health. May next year bring even more festivities and African heritage foods to plates everywhere!




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