"The Indian Ocean is the backbone of the spice trade. And I really want to spell out for people that the spices in Africa are also in your pantry. If you know about Indian cooking, then you won't have any trouble with most African cuisine. And since Africa is not monolithic, let me spell out what that looks like for you."
This week, we're excited to welcome Hawa Hassan to Salt + Spine, the podcast on stories behind cookbooks.
Hawa is the founder and CEO of Basbaas Sauce, a selection of condiments that are inspired by Somalia, the country where she was born. Hawa left Somalia with her family in the midst of the country’s civil war: first to a refugee camp and then to the U.S. She built a life in America, including a modeling career, and 15 years later, she reunited with her family for the first time. Through it all was food — the family foods she remembers from her childhood, the 7/11 snacks she’d pick up in Seattle, the dinner parties she’d host in New York City.
And now, her first cookbook. Hawa joined us to talk about her first cookbook, In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean. Co-authored with Salt + Spine friend Julia Turshen, the book introduces us to bibis (grandmother in Swahili) up and down the East African coast — from Somalia to Kenya to Mozambique to Madagascar. You’ll find heartwarming interviews with bibis from these eight countries and learn about the culinary histories of their families and their countries. And of course, recipes: 75 dishes that are both enticing and full of meaning. Hawa writes, “This isn’t just any old book with fun ideas of what to make for dinner (though you should make the recipes—they’re great!). It’s also a collection of stories about war, loss, migration, refuge, and sanctuary. It’s a book about families and their connections to home.”
There are few cookbooks by major publishers today that focus on African cuisine — a glaring hole in the industry we discuss in this episode — and it’s powerful and inspiring to see these stories and recipes captured in In Bibi’s Kitchen. Hawa joined us remotely to talk about her life and career, creating this new book, and more. And of course, we’re playing a culinary game with Hawa — and we have featured recipes from In Bibi’s Kitchen for you to try at home.