I was in Charleston, S.C., for the first time this spring, and during my weekend stay only scratched the surface of the rich culinary heritage of this part of the south, and in particular, that of Gullah country. I did stumble upon all kinds of delicious morsels, including the benne cracker, a thin sesame seed wafer that's a little bit sweet, a little bit savory. I wolfed down a bag and bought one for my pals back home, intrigued by their flavor and texture. It was only during recent research that I put benne crackers together with Kwanzaa and came up with some interesting tidbits.
It turns out that sesame seeds (known as benne seeds to West African slaves) were among the few possessions that made their way aboard slave ships and ultimately in the cuisines of the American south.
I tried my hand at making a bunch of bennes and couldn't believe how easy they were to put together - a total of 30 minutes, from start to finish. I kept thinking what a great idea not just for those celebrating Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26, but for all of us, who can always use a history lesson on where things come from and how they figure into our lives and those of our neighbors.
I also learned that benne seeds were considered good luck, much like black-eyed peas or lentils at this time of year, so the crackers would be a terrific addition to the New Year's menu as well.
For more Kwanzaa recipes, I highly recommend Eric V. Copage's "Kwanzaa: An African American Celebration of Culture and Cooking" as well as titles by Angela Shelf Medearis, who inspired me to make benne crackers in the first place.
If you've got a delicious, time-honored Kwanzaa recipe to share, please do so in the comments area below.
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Posted by: toady | December 22, 2005 03:55 PM
Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 22, 2005 04:05 PM