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Dreams of Africa

In the last couple of weeks we have watched Blood Diamond which takes place in Sierra Leone and The Last King of Scotland which is about Uganda.  They were both heart-rending films.  I also have been reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmeal Beah which addresses the Sierra Leone story from the perspective of a boy soldier who was rehabilitated and now lives in the US.  It raised again for me the question of how we live in meaningful engagement with the sorrows and struggles of the whole world?

A couple months back we went to see a powerful performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir.  The music was both intensely joyful as well as incredible songs of sorrow and lament.  There is so much that is vibrant and beautiful in African culture, and even to speak of Africa belies the incredible diversity of expression spread across the continent.  This is the birthplace of humanity.

I have had a long fascination with Africa. I dream of visiting there one day.  The Benedictine Priory where I am an Oblate has a relationship with Benedictine sisters from Chipole, Tanzania.  Some of the African sisters come to live at St. Placid while studying at St. Martin’s University down the road, and sisters from the St. Placid community have traveled to Africa to visit their community in an exchange of hospitality and culture.

It has been a while since I posted a recipe, so here is one of my favorite regulars (easy and so very good and nourishing):

African Peanut Soup
Serves 6
1 oz. fresh ginger, peeled
1 medium onion chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz. jar unsalted, dry roasted peanuts, halved or ¾ cup natural peanut butter
1 14 ½ oz. can chicken broth
1 1b split chicken breast, skin on, ribs attached, roasted
2 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour

1. Combine onion, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes with some olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot and saute until the onions are translucent.

2. In the meantime, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When butter is bubbly, add flour and stir until flour is cooked but not browned–1-2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes, until thickened. Add to onion, ginger, garlic mixture.

3. On medium heat, add peanut butter and tomatoes.  Use a hand blender to blend all of the ingredients together until smooth.

4. Add cooked chicken. Cook until heated through, 5 minutes or so. Add water to thin if too thick.

Directions for roasting chicken breast
1. Wash and dry. Rub with light coat of olive oil. Sprinkle top and bottom with salt and pepper.
2. Roast in pre-heated 400 degree oven until internal temperature is 160 degrees, approximately 30-35 minutes for a 1 lb. breast.
3. Allow to cool slightly. Remove skin and shred chicken.

Africa has shown up in my dreams usually symbolizing something that is primal, beautiful, and other to my own experience.  Any of my dear readers been to Africa or dreaming of going as well?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks Tess, I like your Sunday Collection and am honored to be included again.

    Jo, I’d like to see South Africa as well, I have heard it is quite beautiful! I cried several times while listening to the Soweto Gospel Choir. Yes, do try the soup, it really is simple but filled with flavor. I love the ginger and peanut together.

    Milton, how fascinating to hear about your childhood. I am also glad to know that the soup recipe is somewhat authentic. What we’ve done breaks my heart too.

    Blessings, Christine

  2. Christine,

    I grew up in Zambia and Kenya and I grew up eating your soup. We’ve also been watching and reading the same things, though I’ve not yet finished the book — it’s a hard read. Africa is a wonderful gift from God that has been largely squandered and abused by the West. It breaks my heart.


  3. I went to see the Soweto Gospel choir when they came to Leeds about 2 years ago. It was the most amazing concert, very emotional. The singing and dancing were uplifting. The most moving part was when the choir sang the South African national anthem and all around me, native south Africans now resident here in the UK stood and sung their hearts out. Electrifying. I have never been to Africa but if I had the choice, I would love to go to South Africa. My brother went as part of his medical elective in Ghana and South Africa and the photos he brought home showed what stupendous scenery and ethnic diversity there is in the tip of the continent.

    Thank you for the soup recipe too – I’ve never heard of peanut soup and it sounds very exotic, I shall have to give it a go!

  4. You must be reading my mind. I’m planning my regular “Sunday Collection” post and this week am focusing on nourishment. Your post and recipe just got added to my list!

  5. Bette, I just noticed I forgot the tomatoes in the recipe, they’re in there now. It’s one of those really easy but very satisfying recipes that I first tried when I was at my dream group and our facilitator served the soup and I was in love with it right then and there. :-)

  6. how cool that your Priory has connections with the Sisters in Africa. i do hope you can go soon. i can tell that this soup recipe is totally awesome – thank you! some old friends of mine who have since passed were missionaries in Africa and i remember them sharing many many wonderful stories with our congregation throughout my teen years. i especially love the colorful, woven works they create.

    thank you PAM for sharing a bit of your African experiences and for Kabir’s poem!

  7. Pam, how wonderful that you have been there twice and had such moving experiences while there! I absolutely love the quote you share from the Ugandan sister and the Kabir poem is priceless, it may even inspire a whole blog post of its own. Many thanks for the wonderful words! This is what I love about blogging. Blessings to you, Christine

  8. Christine,

    I have been to Africa twice, once when I was 25 and last when I was almost 50. Both times had profound impacts on me. The last time I went with my oldest son to Tanzania to stay at the convent of the sisters that you spoke about at St. Placid. About a year ago, I wrote a bit about it which I will include here:

    Having worked in a very active parish for ten years while shepherding five children through five schools, I know a bit about what it means to have a busy life!

    I did not really recognize its effect on me until I visited Tanzania for a month with my oldest son in June of 2004. I was invited by some Tanzanian sisters who live at St. Placid Priory and study at St. Martins University to visit their home community when two of them returned in the summer. It was such a joy to experience their way of life which involves a lot of walking, talking and waiting. Although people work very hard, no one is in a hurry. They take the time to stop and visit with people wherever they go. It is quite a contrast to our lives of dashing by each other in our cars.

    When I returned from Africa, a friend related something he was told by a Ugandan sister about her experiences in America. She said, “You have watches, but no time. We have no watches, but plenty of time.” Sometimes, we must carve out the time for each other, for ourselves, and for God. To really, stop, look and listen. One needn’t go to a foreign country to recognize the need to slow our pace. Over my desk at work, I keep the following poem by Kabir:

    A Great Pilgrimage

    I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
    so I sat still for three

    and God came
    to me.