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On Friday, August 4, 2017, from 7 until 9 PM, Pottersfield Press will be launching the latest book by Joan Baxter, “Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa” at Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe & Dreamery, which was opened in early July by the renowned Canadian author and children’s poet, Sheree Fitch, and her husband, Gilles Plante.

This is the first book launch to be hosted at Fitch’s immensely popular new bookshop at 286 Allen Road in the village of River John in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Fitch says she is pleased to host this event because Baxter is a “local writer and a friend” and she believes this book has “global significance.”

sheree book shoppeBaxter says she is “thrilled” to be launching this book, her sixth, in rural Nova Scotia, at a location she describes as “beyond magical,” thanks to “the incredible imagination, energy, enthusiasm and efforts that Fitch and Plante invested to create what is sure to become a major literary and tourism destination for the entire province, if not the entire country and beyond.”

She describes her book as a “celebration of African foods, farms, farmers, crops, cooks and cuisines.” And while it may fly in the face of many global media headlines, she says, “Africa has much to teach the world about healthy eating. Of the ten countries with the healthiest diets on earth, nine are African, some of them among the monetarily poorest nations on earth.”

Seven Grains of Paradise-Proof4.oct 25“Seven Grains of Paradise” draws on stories collected over the more than three decades that Baxter worked, lived and learned in Africa. It explores the riddle of a continent that is known more for hunger than for its rich and diverse foods and cuisines, and for having discovered and bred many of the staple foods and drinks consumed daily around the world.

The culinary journey of learning, eating and drinking takes readers from the fabled city of Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, to the diamond fields of Sierra Leone, from the savannah of northern Ghana to the rainforests of Central Africa.

It pays homage to the farmers, cooks and friends who schooled, guided and mentored her along the way.

“This is an eye-opening book that everyone should sturdy carefully to learn how so called advanced cutleries exploited and still exploit this natural rich continent. Highly recommended.” Professor Hrayr Berberoglum, Winesworld Magazine

Baxter says the book doesn’t shy away from the very real problems of food insecurity, hunger or malnutrition brought on by conflict, poverty, unfair trade and climate change, which today plague not just Africa but many other parts of the world.

“While the book focuses on the immense potential of family farming and locally produced food in Africa, it also documents the growing risks they face,” she says.

 

The author visiting the farm of Martin Kamara (right) in Gbematambadu, eastern Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Theophilus Gbenda

About the author: Joan Baxter is a Nova Scotian journalist, science writer, anthropologist and an award-winning author. She has written six books and many research reports on international development and agriculture in Africa. She has reported for the BBC World Service and contributed to many other media, including the CBC, Le Monde Diplomatique, Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Chronicle Herald.

 Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa is available at bookstores in Canada, or online at:

Paperback & Kindle Edition:

Chapters Indigo: http://bit.ly/2vFrjES

Amazon (Canada): http://amzn.to/2gZNC4K

Kindle Edition only:

Amazon (International): http://amzn.to/2vWUkuY

Paperback only: Nimbus Publishing (distributor) http://bit.ly/2tWoBIX

 

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BY Joan Baxter

It certainly flies in the face of an awful lot of stereotypes and headlines about hunger and malnutrition, but it turns out that Africa has much to teach the world about healthy eating.

A 2015 study published by The Lancet Global Health journal looked at the consumption of food (both healthy and unhealthy items) and nutrients in 187 countries in 1990 and then again in 2010. The aim was to determine which countries had the world’s healthiest diets.

It found that none of the healthiest ten diets is in a wealthy Western nation, nor are any in Asia. Most were found in Africa, which is so often portrayed as a continent of constant famine in need of foreign know-how and advice on how to eat and to grow food.

And yet, of the ten countries with the healthiest diets on earth, nine of them are African.

What’s more, the three countries with the very best diets are some the world’s poorest. Chad, ranked as having “very low human development”, 185th of 188 nations on the United Nations 2015 Human Development Index, has the world’s healthiest diet. After that come Sierra Leone and Mali, 181st and 179th on the same Index. Continue reading Looking for healthy eating? Go to Africa!

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Abdelkader Haidara inspects ancient manuscripts in his Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu

Abdelkader Haidara inspects ancient manuscripts in his Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu

First published 18 December 2005, Toronto Star

Time has not been kind to this once-great centre of civilization, which in the early 1500s inspired the Spanish explorer Leo Africanus to paint a picture of a learned, cultured and peaceful place where books were the main industry, where one literally walked on “gold.” Lured by this promise of riches, European explorers tried for centuries to find Timbuktu. By the time the first ones finally arrived in the 1800s, they found a desolate desert outpost not all that different from the sand-swept town of today, with no evidence of all the fabled wealth. Hence, the Western myth about a never-never place with little to offer the world — a myth that is about to be exploded.

Today, treasures are being unearthed here that are radically changing the way the world views Timbuktu, Africa and her history. They’re called the “Timbuktu manuscripts” and they disprove the myth that Africa had no written history. While many thousands have been recovered, there are still hundreds of thousands of manuscripts hidden away in wells and mud-walled storerooms in northern Mali. Huge collections have been passed down in families over many centuries, kept out of sight for fear that European explorers, and then French colonists, would abscond with them.

“Before, all the manuscripts were kept in our homes,” says Abdelkader Haidara, who has inherited his family’s collection of 9,000 written works dating back to the 16th century. “Then, in 1993, I had an idea to open a private and modern library that would be open to everyone.” Thanks to funding from an American foundation, Haidara has been able to open his Mamma Haidara library and catalogue 3,000 of the manuscripts, some of which date back to the 1100s. None of this would have been possible had not Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair of Harvard University’s African and African-American studies department, visited Haidara and realized the importance of preserving these documents.

“When Professor Gates came here and saw the storeroom full of these manuscripts written by African scholars centuries ago, he started to cry,” says Haidara. “He wept like a child, and when I asked him why, he said he had been taught at school that Africa had only oral culture and that he had been teaching the same thing at Harvard for years and now he knew all that was wrong.” Continue reading The treasures of Timbuktu

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