22 September, 2019
Many African Americans are visiting Ghana because of its historic links to the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of years ago.
A professional cook who goes by the name Chef Sage – which is not her real name – waits for the U.S. visitors in Ghana's capital.
At her cafe in Accra, she cooks food influenced by her time in the United States, the Caribbean islands and Ghana. The smell of spices float in the air while her loyal customers sit at tables outside.
"I had that Southern influence, my grandmother with cornbread ...the whole soul food works, and then also being in the Caribbean, having that Caribbean influence as well. I don't know if a lot of people (living) in Africa know that the foods in the Caribbean are so similar," Chef Sage said.
She said that she is seeing more African American customers who are in Ghana for "Year of Return" activities. They are visiting to mark 400 years since the start of the transatlantic slave trade.
The visitors sit with regular customers as Chef Sage and her family serve plant-based meals. Chef Sage was born in Brooklyn, New York, moved to Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a child and moved to Ghana in 2005.
Some "African Americans...do consider this our homeland and we are happy to be here but that food, you are still looking for what you are accustomed too. So I think I attract African Americans because I still have those flavors," Sage said.
Chef Sage does private cooking in Accra in addition to her café. The food changes weekly and can include anything from sweet potato pie to tacos to salads - all made with local products.
Customers like Grisel Industrioso say the food is about good tastes and community.
"You have people from Jamaica, different Caribbean islands...you have people from California and from the East like myself but there is something that brings us together as one people. We can all relate to this food," Industrioso said.
The ties between food in Ghana and the United States are something Essie Bartels also explores. She is a businesswoman with a real interest in food. She sells spices and sauces that show the similarities in foods from around the world.
"Being able to see where all these hotspots of flavors are and bringing them together, that is what I am trying to do with Essie Spice and that is what I hope the Year of Return will do," she said. She added, we want "people to see how connected even food is around the world."
Bartels and Chef Sage say the Year of Return is a good time to understand the relationship between shared African history and food.
I'm Susan Shand.
VOA's Stacey Knott reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
transatlantic – adj. involving people or countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean
spice – n. a substance (such as pepper or nutmeg) that is used in cooking to add flavor to food and that comes from a dried plant and is usually a powder or seed
customer – n. someone who buys goods or services from a business
soul food – n. food that comes from the African-American experience
accustomed –adj. describing something that seems normal or usual
flavor – n. a good or appealing taste