Category Archives: vegan in afrika

Okra Stew Again, with Cauliflower

Been meaning to post these since I took pics of my dinner one night earlier in May. It’s like the okra stew I presented earlier in the life of this blog, the main solid ingredients this time being chopped-up cauliflower, spinach and okra. The sauce portion, like the earlier iteration, is a lot of tomatoes, habañero pepper (the heat rock!), bell pepper, an onion, some ginger, probably some basil from my backyard, maybe a little cilantro, maybe some curry leaves. I don’t remember exactly since this is from May 5 at a time when I was taking my finals and acing them, and due to neglect, I’m only uploading the joints now. But the pictures speak for themselves. Last week I was messing with zucchini pastas with mad spinach, and tonight I’m thinking about fooling with the concoction below again. Gotta walk down to Oak Tree Rd to my Indian joints, or down to the farmer’s market in Menlo Park Terrace (this is mighty Edison/ Iselin, NJ fools!) to get me that white hard veggie since I forgot to pick some up when I went shopping yesterday. Enjoy the glamor shots below! More later. Questions welcome.

So nice, green and tasty. This is so ill.

Close up for detail.

The black hand of the Precision Afrikan about to deposit this delicious vegan mess into the mouth of the maker. The texture and crunch of cauliflower is too nice to describe. Only the most sophisticated third-world raw vegan connoisseurs can relate to this exquisite experience.

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I am an African Vegan.

Pep words for Afrikan vegans: You can come out. Be visible. Show your healthy glistening black self and stand up proud. You are an African. Your skin is some awesome shade of anything sienna to super dark-chocolate. Your hair is tightly curled, strong, black as the universe. You own it like a million dollars. We are Africans. We come from the most beautiful land on this beautiful planet. We have a deep and profound responsibility to the people, sentient beings and land of our continent and planet, but we walk harder because we know we will save the world, full and proud in our blackness.

And we are vegans. We are vegans. We are the black vegans. Okra and spinach stews all day for me. All y’all West African vegans make that egusi soup tight and chop with the best fufu. You know how hype that meatless joloff rice is. I used to roll gari all day in Ghana. Brown rice and groundnut stew. Ethiopians be rocking that njera with black bean stews and all. Then raw vegan fruitarian types like me eat warrior-class mangos in the middle of New Jersey on a warm sunny day and instantly recall a hundred  days in Ghana and Nigeria three years ago. Have to get back to Afrika ASAP and eat all the colorful tree-grown orbs and pearls that make us superhuman.

Eleven years strong as an Afrikan vegan. I’m only 26 so I’m just off the starting line. I maintain beginner’s mind – Zen mind, beginner’s mind. In the beginner’s mind anything is possible, including the will to practice the healthy and happy life nonstop. Struggle does not need to negate happiness. We are Afrikans, we WILL struggle. Yet young Afrikan vegans know how good they feel. Thus they should feel so proud and powerful. Young, gifted, black, vegan!

I’m a Nigerian vegan. We exist. We can come out. All that pastureland chewed off by browsers, we could feed so many more Africans with what we could grow on it than what is fed by the brutally slaughtered animals. Spare their lives. Make Africa the garden that can feed ourselves and the world. Not by giving Nigerian land to white Zimbabwean farmers and displacing black folk all over again. Not by bulldozing the rainforests, nor flooding the Delta with blood and oil.

Maybe African vegans are too sophisticated, too futuristic, too iconoclastic for this world right now. But we are coming out. We exist. We are dedicated. We know about racism and speciesism and sexism and patriarchy and neocolonialism. We know how awesome eating stacks of fresh veggies and fruits makes us look and feel, preventing disease, preventing the African dictator-/ corrupt official-gut. Africans not addicted to meat, nor to rage and anger. Africans loving their own selves, their land, their bodies, their families, the collective Afrikan.

Our body is the temple. Can’t fill it with junk. If we do that we won’t feel like Africans anymore, we won’t have the vigor to do that mandyani, that sabar dancing, that iron sculpting, that inventing. African vegans know this.

African vegans are here. From Dakar to Maputo, Africans are becoming vegan. From Lagos to Lusaka, fresh fruits and vegetables are being taken very seriously. In the lands between Abidjan and Addis, Africans are staying away from the meat. In Kinshasa and Kumasi, black people are getting down with some veganism. I’ve seen it. I’m one of them.

What is awesome?

To be Afrikan, to be Vegan, and proud.

We are not from the future. We are here.

Hospital Food

So last week I was at my local hospital rehab ward to observe occupational therapy for several days (occupational therapy is my next course of study and, I promise, the last degree I’ll collect before I turn 30. I need to make more money.). Folks who have suffered strokes, folks who’ve had heart attacks, amputees, folks who’ve been shot or endured devastating accidents, these individuals constitute the population of this inpatient ward. This private non-profit hospital is among the more progressive and well-endowed in the NYC metro area. The staff seem respected and happy, from the physical and occupational therapists to the practical nurses, from the food servers to the social workers.

The hospital food orders can be restricted for patients with cardiac conditions, limiting them to low-fat/low cholesterol options. And one could get some fresh fruits with his or her requests. Vegetarian meals were also options. The food offerings were conventional, but not of the lowest standard, and there was room for customization on the part of the savvy patient.

Nonetheless, I want to assert that many conditions suffered by these patients were ultimately caused by diet. Smokers and heavy meat-eaters, given their stated conditions and diets, abounded in this population, especially amongst stroke and cardiac patients. Diet is the first medicine. It begins at youth. Bad medicine across a lifetime leads to an undesirable outcome, it was overwhelmingly clear to me after my observation of who tends to wind up needing these sorts of therapies.

Healthy food, physical culture (primal and vigorous exercise and play), adequate sleep, healthy relationships and vocations, sunshine, rest, hopefully some love – these are the original therapies. If the whole population ate brilliantly and lived vigorously (but safely and sanely), physicians and allied health professionals like me, even those in alternative medicine disciplines, would be damn near out of business. For real. If we are honest, many of our professions are created by the need to mitigate negative lifestyle choices only. Nutritionists, for example (just one of many disciplines to critique) are not really necessary but to the nutritionally clueless, obese client who can afford one, who will tell the client what to eat and why. But common sense says we should eat natural fresh fruits and vegetables, as much as we need, and then relax. Hell, personal trainers – a profession I’ve been trained in – don’t really need to exist but for an adult population that has completely forgotten how to move and play to stay naturally healthy. Another thing I’ve been trained in, massage therapy, is unnecessary for those who have great friends and/ or lovers who can share affection and apply pressure to pain and aches maturely and effectively.

If the population moved towards health and sanity, no need for many of us healthcare peoples. We’d need retraining for some other profession, those that actually produce and reproduce material needs in societies. I would actually prefer that the population did this. That would be the trend in a revolutionary society that knows about preventive medicine, social equality, pro-human values, harmony with nature, and so on.

But it’s not happening, in fact the trend goes backwards. Hence among the only stable and growing jobs in this recession continue to be those in healthcare.

Shouldn’t be. Preventive medicine is the best therapy. Love is the best drug. Healthy diet is the most profound lifelong pill. For me, healthy diet is of course this low-fat raw vegan road. Staying healthy is easy in this configuration. Eat fresh clean raw plants when you’re hungry. Then relax and do other things like positive, life-affirming and creative work, coupled with vigorous and fun play, and completed by welcome and relaxing sleep.

Stay healthy, so you don’t have to even deal with the berserk capitalist anti-human monster euphemistically called our healthcare system in these united snakes. Complicated and clever ways to deal with the ordeal of medical billing for insurance was one of the main things everyone at this hospital was talking about.

Don’t make the world need more nurses, therapists and hospital food.

To Be Agronomic…

This is actually the only real physical book I took back with me from the classes I took at University of Ghana and Ashesi University in the Spring semester of 2007. This book is Managing Agrodiversity the Traditional Way edited by Edwin A. Gyasi – the professor of the course I took with him, Sustainable Agriculture in the Developing World – and Gordana KranjacBerisavljevic, Essie T. Blay, and William Oduro. This course, a graduate-level class in the Geography department at Legon, was only attended by three students that whole semester – two of us from America (including a white woman from Northern California) and a young Ghanaian woman. It’s troubling, at best, that matters of agronomy, food security, and sustainable land management are not attended to by more students, particularly right in Afrika. But I consider it to have been a great honor to have studied the contemporary thought around sustainable development with Prof. Gyasi.

That is the man himself, during our field trip to Aburi Hills, where we visited Ebua Danso’s farm, the one I mention three posts down, where organic agroforestry impressed the hell out of me and blew my mind. And Ebua Danso wasn’t a master, world-renowned organic Afrikan farmer because of something he learned in a Western-oriented agronomy program somewhere. He was simply reproducing the beautiful and effective methods of traditional, local farmers in Ghana and elsewhere in West Afrika. I come back to all this subject matter and these past events in my life as I reflect on being a raw vegan/ fruitarian, an Afrikan, and a revolutionary concerned with food security, sustainable and plentiful food production and transport, and justice. Raw Vegans/ fruitarians like me eat a lot of tropical fruits and nuts. Bananas produced for the Bonita, Dole, and other big US corporations that maintain banana republics in Latin America – I eat them. I live in North Jersey, just outside NYC where I work and conduct all my business. And I enter the market and select all sorts of tropical fruits that were grown many thousands away, in the very tropics I am native to (and would probably rather be most of the time). If the Afrikan situation was correct, I would be there today with no looking back, doing work, being free, eating right off the land and most likely growing most of my own food. I know activists here in NYC that want to do something like establish organic herbal gardens in Cameroon which will grow medicinal herbs to be exported to the US. Yet the cost of such transport, and the relationship of cash-cropism – an economic practice I approach with some ire – might not be overturned in such an arrangement.

It is likely very impractical to imagine, at this point, a world which, in concern for the pollution and waste of intercontinental food trading – and realizing the injustice of cash-cropism imposed on the (tropical) third world by the (temperate) first world – moves to locovorism, where everyone is eating locally-grown whole foods. In New York state or New Jersey, what do we grow that I dig, apples? A lot of salad crops, yes? Many sorts of berries? Well, that is excellent and I eat the local varieties of those, and have visited apple farms in South Jersey, where I was impressed and felt my innate desire to be a rural, food-growing, simple-ass man, reinforced. But me, I eat a whole lot of tropical fruits. I eat citrus grown in Florida, avocados grown in California (as well as a lot of salad greens), pecans grown in Texas, as for this country. I eat avocados from Mexico, too, Ecuadorian bananas, Brazilian cashews, Chilean blueberries, Peruvian cacao beans, Canadian hemp-seed, Spanish unpasteurized almonds, even New Zealand Kiwis. And that’s certainly not all I eat. I feel concerned about being a non-locovore, a man eating from the global kitchen assembly line established long ago by European mercantilism and colonialism, the antecedents of contemporary cash-cropism. I don’t even eat fair-trade bananas (not even organic).

Does one like me just keep going this way? Agronomy is one of my many, many interests. I’m an urban-ass person, something I can’t apologize for because I was born into that, though I have friends who have moved on from that, and at least tried to dedicate more of their lives to agronomy and food security issues. In the meantime, I suppose we must be advocates for, aside from revolution, or in until its occurrence, clean-green-energy means of international shipping and sustainable locovorism to the extent that it is possible and practical. Surely those in cities and towns with land should say fuck a lawn, and grow food on their free land. Lawns are the invention of retards. Food security is undermined by lawns. Whenever I get a true place of my own, best believe I’ll be growing food on it like a hardcore farmer. But it could be the case, some day down the line, and within the context of repatriating, that I just move to the tropics, to Afrika, where everything grows, and grow durians, pineapples, avocados, mangos, oranges, cashews, cacao, and all that good shit, alongside other Afrikans, a beautiful sista, some little ones, sweating under the palms and sipping fresh juices by the sea (or in the valleys). Ah, to aspire to the good life…

Raw Veganism in Afrika – Could be Ideal (?)

master13_1.jpgI think that the ecological and economic reasons for raw veganism, or even conventional veganism, make it one of the best diets for Afrikans on the continent. Most Afrikans have other ideas, and Afrika might be the continent with the least vegetarians, or at least the fewest conscious vegetarians. A lot of Afrikans see meat as a prestige. It was isolating being vegan in Afrika, and it made me think a lot about how I could spread vegetarianism there, even though I usually never operated as a vegan evangelist before. The sorts of classes I took in Ghana, on sustainable agriculture, women and development, and traditional medicine, all helped confirm for me that we need a vegan movement in Sub-Saharan Afrika. I feel we need to grow all sorts of great tropical fruits and vegetables for ourselves, and eat them. We must move away from cash-crop economies which leave us dependent on the West, and make us import their rotten meat, their subsidized rice, and so on.

 

It is winter in New York, my first winter in two years since last winter I was in Ghana. I have the profound sense of not only missing Afrika, but feeling like I really belong there. I find myself sunbathing almost religiously in this wintertime, since as a very very dark-skinned Afrikan I am supposed to be getting the amount of sunlight I would be getting in the tropics to generate the right amount of Vitamin D. I think I am doing well here because I just sit in the sun whenever it is sunny; I’m sitting in the sun right now. I LOVE THE SUN. I like hot weather. I like keeping my skin melanin-stimulated, dark, black, no matter what time of year or what weather. Raw veganism, fitness, and health all require maad sunlight and fresh air, especially for Afrikans.

 

If I was in Afrika right now, I would be eating maad mangos, Afrikan avocados (whose taste I didn’t allow myself to get used to as I am so accustomed to Mexican/ Californian avocados), maad greens, tomatoes, papayas, guavas, bananas, all the great tropical fruits. Maybe a few raw cashews or raw groundnuts. It would be so easy, as it’s all in the market and is maad affordable, at least to someone who has Western currency.

 

As Afrika moves towards holistic and self-contained economic and health development, perhaps we could begin to grow more of the superfoods of Asia and elsewhere in our vast, rich soils. We could start cultivating durians, certain types of berries, herbs, nuts and seeds. It would be sweet.

 

The practice of pastoralism, the grazing of cattle, sheep, etc., is scientifically proven to be an unsustainable way of life compared to settled agriculture, as the browsers eat away the grasses and help expand the Sahara and other deserts. The consumption of meat is scientifically proven to be able to feed far, far fewer humans than mass vegetarianism would. It consumes far, far more water resources, land, food even, to produce meat than to produce veggies. Our starvation could be stemmed with a lot more veganism, and a lot more macrobiotic, self-sufficient, self-feeding agriculture.

 

And tropical fruits are some of the most heavily relied on ones by raw vegans and fruitarians. Being actually in the tropics would mean easy access to, and ability to grow, our favorite foods.

 

If I return to Afrika, or move there (or to the Caribbean), I would get land and grow maad tropical fruits and veggies, keep the soil well nourished, make babies with a raw-vegan Afrikan beauty queen, practice and teach fitness and martial arts, eat raw vegan stuff, and live a long life as a revolutionary Afrikan renaissance man. I’d learn an Afrikan language, I’d be maad healthy, build an all-Afrikan bicycle factory powered by wind and solar, spread African Internationalism and socialism, etc. But that’s just crazy dreaming. Afrika is grossly underdeveloped and neo-colonized, though we must stand and fight.

 

I visited an organic farm in Aburi, Ghana (north of Accra) where the old Afrikan genius there practices sustainable agroforestry. He plants trees. He plants all sorts of fruits, greens, yams, etc. all around them. He was maad inspiring. The photo above is from his land, the photo below of his contact info. I could do that. I could live like that. We all could. “Make the world a garden…”

 

How I wonder. 

 

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On Being Vegan in Ghana and Nigeria

I landed in Accra on January 7, 2007. I’ve been a vegan since I was 15, starting back in 1999. My trip was a rare opportunity to use my grad school fellowship money to get out of New York City and its winter, as well as the winter of the anemic and ideologically whack Africana studies department at my university. As a person steadily rising in Pan-Afrikan consciousness over the previous year-and-a-half, my journey was a chance to express and cement my commitment to Pan-Afrikanism and my love and solidarity for Afrikan people. It was a chance to directly study the conditions of Afrikan peoples on the continent. As an Afrikan of Nigerian descent, it was a chance to visit family last seen over ten years ago and barely remembered. As a profoundly alienated Afrikan youth in urban Amerikkka, it was a chance to connect with my own people more deeply and perhaps find more community. It was a chance to be totally immersed in societies where everyone looked like me.

On landing, a friend of my uncle retrieved me from the airport and delivered me to a very loose contact of his, a family of a mother, her three young children, and their grandmother at a house in East Legon. The first thing I ate in Ghana (I was a vegan, not a raw vegan while I was in Afrika, because had not yet even considered raw veganism) was some organic oatmeal I brought with me. I had fasted for a long time between taking off at JFK and landing in Accra (on a long but descent non-stop flight via North American Airlines). The family’s attitudes were accepting of my veganism and there was no drama about it. I stayed with this family for the first two-and-a-half weeks, until I got a place in a hostel right up the road, a hostel full of Ghanaian students, not an international hostel.

My initial experience being a vegan in Ghana was an overall nice one. I had to buy a gas canister, gas stove, and some pots and utensils for storage in the outdoor kitchen area of the hostel, with which I cooked meals all the time. I regularly ate the locally grown brown rice (which had to be thoroughly washed as it was maad soily), as well as local gari (cooked cassava meal), with vegetable and bean stews I made. I also regularly steamed plantain very frequently. I introduced some very expensive cereal-and-soy-milk eating (sourced out of the downtown foreigner-oriented, Arab-owned grocery stores like Koala Market and Max Mart). I didn’t do this long, though. But mid-way through my five-month semester in Ghana I began to get lazy, even perhaps somewhat exhausted, with cooking all the time, so me eating cereal and even peanut-butter and jelly very late in my stay happened more frequently.

Also towards the end I identified two vegan restaurants in Accra. One was called just “Vegetarian Restaurant” or something. It was very close to the Airport and “37” bus depot. And I think they may no longer be there because they posted notices that they would be leaving at the end of May, around which time I was either in Nigeria or returning to Amerikkka. The other restaurant has a name I forget. It was near Nkrumah Circle and across from one of the biggest and most prestigious internet cafe’s in town, whose name I also presently forget. This restaurant is run by Hebrew-Israelites from Amerikkka. Any Rasta or serious vegetarian in Accra knows what I’m talking about. When I’m reminded of the names of these establishments I will correct this post.

Towards the end, especially the last month or so, of my stay in Ghana, I became much more heavily reliant on these establishments for my food. For even a very poor traveler from Amerikkka like me, all the food was really cheap. The “Vegetarian Restaurant” near “37” was the better of the two restaurants, with much lower prices and much tastier, and completely traditional, Ghanaian vegetarian meals. The restaurant near Nkrumah circle served a lot of rice dishes, veggie burgers, and so on. Their food was rather salty and sometimes oily, while the food at the “Vegetarian Restaurant” was very starchy and fatty. I would eat my favorite, fufu with groundnut or palm-nut soup, all the time and voraciously. I think that sort of eating was part of why my immune system began to weaken by the last month of the Ghana tour, and I was getting sick, feeling flu-like for some time.

I never took any malaria meds or what not while in Ghana. All that stuff is overratted and toxic, especially if one is already an Afrikan and one keeps the immune system strong. And I was stung by every mosquito in West Afrika. No problem. Before heading to Ghana, I looked into natural preventatives of malaria, like garlic and lemon oil. I didn’t deal much with lemon oil. I had some oregeno oil and I think echinacea something with me. Didn’t use them much. And I was supplementing with vegetarian multivitamins and multiminerals throughout my stay.

In the second week of April, I went to Nigeria. I flew the 45 minute flight from Accra to Lagos, was picked up by my father from the airport, spent the night at a Lagos hotel, and flew the hour flight from Lagos to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where I spent the week. This was during the chaotic and corrupt gubernatorial elections Nigeria was trying to hold, though things never went as bad as they got in Kenya this past month. My cousins on my father’s side, who are some of the coolest Afrikans around, were all cool with and intrigued by my veganism. They considered it progressive and intuitively understood it as a way of obtaining the best health. I ate lots of fruit while there. I made, and was made, vegetable stews, served with Nigerian-style fufu, a Kalabari yam/plantain dish, and rice. I had salads. I did alright overall in Nigeria and ate better than I had in Ghana, where at the time I was beginning to get lazy, eat cereal, and go to restaurants.

Going back to Ghana to finish out the semester, I ate the roadside baked yam and plantain pieces, with dry-roasted salted groundnuts, for lunch often. I had bananas on my way back home. I had my brown-rice-stew-and-plantain meals mornings and evenings. The grandmother in my initial host family sometimes made me copious groundnut stew which I would freeze for days and eat with brown rice. And so on.

I got my produce primarily from Medina Market, the big open-air market north of Legon. I got some of what I used for my sauces at the downtown supermarkets, including Indian-style sauce bases, occasionally.

After exams were over, I flew again to Nigeria, this time to spend a week in Lagos with my cousins on my mother’s side. My aunt is a caterer, so she made a lot of rice-and-bean meals which I could eat. I didn’t cook at all while in Lagos because of this. I didn’t eat too many fruits either.

By the time I returned to Amerikkka from Nigeria at the end of May 2007, I think my immune system was exhausted from eating so much cooked food, ultimately more cooked food than I had been eating in Amerikkka before I left for Ghana. I wish I had considered raw veganism for my whole stay in West Afrika, which would have made everything more convenient and simple, and left me much healthier. Which I will expand on in my next post.

But I thought it was important to share my experience being vegan in West Afrika, which was not without its challenges, but was for the most part pretty easy. The bulk of the challenge came in doing it alone, and trying to cook every single time I went to eat, which I eventually got lazy and exhausted about. The only person who challenged me for being vegan was this stupid, stuck-up, narrow-minded jerk from the geography department at University of Ghana.

While in West Afrika, fitness-wise I did lots of calisthenics and walked as much as I could in the nice hot sun, which some Ghanaians thought ridiculous, but kept me very fit and ready to jump right into Kung Fu not long after I returned to New York.

There needs to be more resources for vegans and raw vegans in Afrika, so I hope this little contribution helps.