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Monday, March 18, 2013

An Introduction to Authentic African Cooking

Afro Fusion Cuisine’s all-natural spice mixes

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Like many immigrants, Yollande Tchouapi Deacon was disappointed by how difficult it was to find her native cuisine in Milwaukee after she moved here in 2001. African restaurants were, and still are, a rarity in the city, and the food they served was a far cry from the distinctively spiced, slow-cooked meals she grew up with in her small Cameroonian town of less than 2,000 people. Over the years, though, she’s noticed that American tastes have been growing more in line with the African way of cooking.

“It’s funny that green food or real food are becoming popular movements here, because that’s how we’ve always eaten in Africa,” Deacon said. “In my city we didn’t have the technology to preserve anything, so you either ate it or it went bad.”

Deacon realized that between Milwaukee’s growing interest in natural food and its continued openness to different ethnic cuisines, there might be enough demand for an authentic African catering service. “There wasn’t a catering service where you could find the type of food I grew up eating, with very intense flavors and very fresh ingredients, from the garden to the kitchen with a lot of love, so I missed that and wanted to show my friends and my community what real African food tastes like,” she said. “It’s not about cooking some food and calling it African, it’s about using traditional cooking techniques, and offering flavors and a presentation that somebody from Africa would recognize.”

She started her catering company Afro Fusion Cuisine last summer and was immediately surprised by the warm welcome it received. It turned out that, like her, there were other Milwaukeeans interested in African cuisine that wasn’t diluted or Americanized. “There are definitely foodies out there who want something authentic,” Deacon said.

In addition to catering, Deacon hosts pop-up dinners and cooking classes, where she explains African food and spices in detail. Afro Fusion Cuisine also sells a line of African spice blends at Outpost stores and online at afrofusionbrands.com, with profits going toward scholarships for students in her hometown.

“We sell an all-purpose seasoning, which is excellent for vegetables and seafood,” Deacon said. “There are just three simple steps to a perfect African meal: In a ziplock bag just add three tablespoons on a piece of chicken, vegetable or tofu, and then let it marinate in olive oil or any type of vegetable oil for an hour at least and then you can bake it or boil it. Or for an even simpler meal, just sprinkle the spice onto a piece of chicken, then grill it, boil it or broil it, and that’s it.”
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