Africa

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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

July 14, 2017

(This article is the second of two adapted excerpts from Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa, available in print and Kindle edition at Amazon.ca and as an e-pub from Amazon.com and Kobo, and in print from Nimbus.)

Seven Grains of Paradise-Proof4.oct 25At the beginning of the 1960s, when many African countries were becoming independent nations, freeing themselves one after another from the colonial powers, the continent was more than able to feed itself. Until 1970, it was even exporting food, more than a million tonnes a year.

Today, after more than half a century of foreign development assistance and food aid, as well as decades of economic development doctrines from the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, foreign “donors,” and most recently, billionaire philanthropists, the continent imports a quarter of its food.

This lands us right in the middle of the kitchen staring into the eyes of the big elephant of a question that is sitting there: Why has Africa become synonymous in many people’s minds with malnutrition, famine and hunger, and not feted for nutritious foods, diverse farms and wonderful cuisines? Continue reading Challenging some myths about Africa’s food, food security and farming

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BY Joan Baxter

July 12, 2017

(This article is the first of two adapted excerpts from the book, Seven Grains of Paradise – A Culinary Journey in Africa, available in print and Kindle edition at Amazon.ca, as an e-pub globally from Amazon.com and Kobo, and in print in Canada from Nimbus.)

Seven Grains of Paradise-Proof4.oct 25Type “Why is Africa” into Google and these are the top four phrases with which it fills in the blank: “so backward,” “such a mess,” “so poor,” and “so underdeveloped.” Change the query to “Why can’t Africa,” and Google finishes that question with: “grow food.”

Depressing stuff, but it’s not Google’s fault that such negative stereotypes abound. They go back many decades, if not centuries, and obviously still persist to shape online searches. And they’re as misleading and wrong now as they’ve always been.

First, Africa is an immense and diverse continent, which is no more “backward” (whatever that really means) or more of a “mess” than many other parts of the world. Many African countries may be monetarily poor, but the continent is enormously rich in culture and resources, and parts of it are catching up, if not surpassing, other more “developed” countries, depending, of course, what exactly we mean by development.

And as for the notion that Africa can’t grow food, that’s so far off the mark that it’s hard to know where to start to debunk it. But I’ll try. In 2015, a landmark study that examined diets in 187 countries around the world in 1990 and again in 2010 found that nine of the ten healthiest were in West African nations. Continue reading Celebrating Africa’s food and farmers

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Press Release: May 19, 2017

In her new book, “Seven Grains of Paradise,” Joan Baxter challenges many myths and explores the wealth of African food cultures and knowledge, foods and crops, and farming know-how.

It flies in the face of many media headlines, but the reality is that 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.

In her latest book, Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa, Joan Baxter highlights the wisdom and knowledge of cooks, farmers and friends who act as guides to some of the marvellous, diverse foods and food cultures in several African counties. She 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 – coffee, “cola” extracts, watermelon, palm oil, black-eyed peas, gumbo, sesame, pearl and finger millets.

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Alligator peppers containing the tasty little “grains of paradise” have important spiritual and medicinal uses in Sierra Leone. They are also a popular delicacy in many West African dishes and cuisines. Photo credit: Saskia Marijnissen

Seven Grains of Paradise draws on stories collected over the more than three decades that Baxter worked, lived and learned in Africa. 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, readers are invited on a delectable journey of learning and eating – and some drinking too.

Baxter 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. And it asks whether there is a need for a rethink about how “development” affects diets – especially within development agencies, international institutions and donors in the (sometimes lucrative and self-serving) business of food aid or improving food security and nutrition in Africa.

About the author: Joan Baxter is a journalist, science writer, anthropologist and an award-winning author who has published five books, several research reports about international development in West Africa, countless media articles and documentaries for a host of media organizations, including the BBC World Service, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Le Monde Diplomatique, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Chronicle Herald. She has worked as a science writer and communications specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre and the International Center for Forestry Research, based in Kenya, served on the Board of USC Canada, and as the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia – Gambia Association. She is a Senior Research Fellow with the Oakland Institute.

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

https://www.nimbus.ca/store/seven-grains-of-paradise.html?___SID=U

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-CA/home/search/?keywords=Seven%20Grains%20of%20Paradise

https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Seven+Grains+of+Paradise&rh=n%3A916520%2Ck%3ASeven+Grains+of+Paradise

An e-pub version of the book will be available soon.

Praise for “Seven Grains of Paradise”

“Joan Baxter has given us a shimmering crystal prism blending Africa’s culinary splendour, practical agronomy, and dirty politics, with laser-like precision. Roaming around Western Africa for several decades, her anecdotes are as scathingly unforgiving of Western bias, corporate greed and agricultural industrialization, as they are of African culpability. The delicious recipes woven seamlessly into her experience of African foods had me frantically scouring the city for ingredients, but alas, she is correct, it is very difficult to find Africa’s ingredients on African shelves. I have long searched for such a book, and am hardly able to put it down.” Ake Mamo, aspiring farmer, educator and devotee of indigenous foods and fruits

“Joan Baxter has written a lyrical yet punchy and political book about food in Africa that will turn your preconceptions on their head and make your mouth water. Probably Canada’s foremost expert on West African cuisine and a hardy journalist to boot, she explores the indigenous crops that make the region’s diet the healthiest in the world. Surprised? Read this book and get woken about the market places, forests, fields and kitchens of Africa.” Cathy WatsonAshoka fellow, correspondent for the BBC and The Guardian, and agroforester

“In Seven Grains of Paradise, Joan Baxter invites us into her life and time in Africa to meet the people, communities, and families in the most down-to-earth and real way. Through the stories she shares, I found the spirit of Africa. I could smell the food in the cooking pots; I could hear the sound of the markets and feel the sun warm my skin. I could just listen to the conversations and transplant myself to the moment, to the kitchen, to the streets described. Seven Grains of Paradise is a book I will keep with me for years to come; and read over and over again.” Dr. Yene Assegid, Author and Leadership Coach/Trainer

“In an unconventional and appealing view of Africa, Joan Baxter describes her gastronomic experiences in Africa in an intriguing mix of social anthropology, ethno-botany, and eating out. The end result is a traveller’s ‘Good Food Guide’ to the restaurants and markets of Africa in the company of local cooks and chefs, providing a Master Class in African cuisine. This book also points to missed opportunities for creating a better life for Africans by promoting their own diverse array of exciting food species to replace the monotonous diet of maize and cassava imposed on many by international agricultural ‘experts’. Joan Baxter goes on to explain how local foods are being promoted by a more appropriate and emerging approach to tropical agriculture – called ‘agroforestry’ aimed at resolving the problems of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, environmental degradation (including the loss of biodiversity and climate change) that have a stranglehold on Africa. The wealth of information about traditional foods in this book thus provides motivation for a paradigm shift to improve the lives of Africans; not to mention the health of our planet. A must-read for ‘foodies,’ Africa-lovers and development workers.” Professor Roger R.B. Leakey (DSc, PhD, BSc, FRGS), International Tree Foundation and author of Living with the Trees of Life – Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture and Multifunctional Agriculture: Achieving Sustainable Development in Africa

“There are so many ways to use this book. It’s great to read in case you’re thinking of travelling to Africa…great to teach people who know nothing about Africa except that it has traumatic bouts with famine and hunger. It’s great preparation for people going to an African restaurant in their own city, be it in North America or Europe…great for being able to understand better and welcome properly newcomers to your country who’ve come from Africa. It’s great to read a writer who combines angst and self-deprecating humor and who has a real way with zany words. It’s great to have another angle on the enormous power of food to bring out what’s good and inspiring in people, and to come away from a book that deals with weighty matters in a weighty way that still leaves room for hope.” Wayne Roberts, author of The No Nonsense Guide to World Food and Food for City Building, former manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council; speaker and consultant on food and cities

 

 

 

 

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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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