From South Africa, an Activist’s Recipe Recalls the Power of Food

By Elizabeth Alpern

Published April 13, 2011, issue of April 22, 2011.

The early years of Nelson Mandela’s life as an organizer and revolutionary were marked by cross-cultural experiences centered around the table, even when such alliances were frowned upon politically. The Indian South African community, and the solidarity it showed in passive resistance campaigns, deeply influenced Mandela’s later mass actions and encouraged Mandela and his colleagues to work across racial and cultural lines. Among his greatest influencers was Amina Pahad, who became politically active in her teenage years, and welcomed activists of all backgrounds into her home, truly letting “all who were hungry come and eat” and creating a safe haven filled with political debate and good meals.

“I often visited the home of Amina Pahad for lunch, and then suddenly this charming woman put aside her apron and went to jail for her beliefs.…”, recalled Mandela in his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”

This vegetable curry, a vegetarian adaptation of Pahad’s dry chicken curry (dry because the spices form almost a paste coating the ingredients, making the flavors extra strong), reminds us of the importance of opening our minds to people and flavors that may be unfamiliar, and to the quiet power that food wields in the pursuit of justice.

Vegetable Curry, Adapted From Amina Pahad’s Dry Chicken Curry

From “Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela” by Anna Trapido

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon saffron

¼ teaspoon cardamom

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed

3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds

Juice of one lemon

1 cup almond milk

1. Combine spices (first 11 ingredients) in a small bowl.

2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan and add diced onion. Heat over medium flame until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from flame and immediately add spice mixture, stirring quickly to coat onions. Add eggplant, carrots, lemon juice and almond milk and stir to coat vegetables.

3. Return saucepan to heat and keep flame on low. Cover and cook until carrots are soft but not mushy, about 30 minutes. Serve with matzo or quinoa.

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