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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