Discover more from KitchenWitch
Acarajé: An African Ambrosia
And a recipe to make your own version of the offering.
Hello, wonderful witches!
I like to think I’m pretty good about remembering the pagan holidays. But if you were expecting a newsletter for Lughnasa on August 1, you probably noticed that I… well, I forgot. In my defense, I was in Paris on vacation, but still.
So sorry about that! It does bring up a point I think is important to make, though. A lot of people beat themselves up for forgetting one of the (many) pagan holidays. They think they’re a “bad witch,” or someone tells them that they are.
Don’t you listen to that voice, whomever it might belong to! We’re all humans, and we all forget things sometimes. Some pagans and witches don’t celebrate the sabbats at all, and that’s totally fine! You’re not breaking some major rule if you don’t celebrate, or if you don’t practice your craft the way others think you should.
Paganism and witchcraft are incredibly personal experiences for everyone that practices. Your craft may look different from mine, or from anyone else you know in the community. Remember that when you worry you’re doing something wrong. The best things are to go with your gut and practice in the way that works for you. And if that include (ahem, me) missing a holiday or two, you’re not any less of a witch or pagan than you were before. (See also: my rant about the phrase “baby witch,” a stain upon the world of witchcraft.)
ANYWAY, on we go. I’m so pumped to share that my tyromancy workshops were featured in a local news story. Check it out here if you want to learn more about what I do and how fortunetelling with cheese works!
Also, it’s Leo season, and yesterday was my birthday! My amazing husband knows how much I like to be the center of attention, so he threw me a surprise birthday party. It was absolutely amazing and I’m so touched by the effort of him, my family, and my friends. Here’s a pic of me absolutely loving my cake (say hi to my dad in the background!):
As a happy my birthday to you all, I’m running a contest. Out of all the comments on this post, I’ll have a friend randomly pick two people from the list. Those two people will get one free session of anything on my Witchcraft/Divination Services page. Good luck!! I’m leaving for Egypt in a couple days and will be gone for a week, so winners will be notified upon my return.
On to today’s story! This one is about a Nigerian fried food used in offerings.
Acarajé: An African Ambrosia
By Mayowa Oyewale
If you have lived well in Western Africa or in South American cities such as Salvador, Sao Paulo, or Rio de Janeiro, then you probably have heard about acarajé (or àkàrà). It is one of the most popular foods in the world. It’s quite unique, too, as while it is a street snack in some places, it fullfils ritual offerings and sacrifices in others.
The black-eyed pea fritters originated in Yorùbáland in modern Nigeria and were brought to South American cities via enslaved Yorùbá people. The name varies depending on where you are: Ghanaians call it akla or koose; Cameroonians and Sierra Leoneans call it kosai; Yorùbás call it àkàrà; and Brazilians call it acarajé.
Due to its African nativity as well as its history with the transatlantic slave trade, the black-eyed pea/bean has been rightfully conferred the honors of spirituality among Black people. If it serves as the most important ingredient in acarajé, the food becomes more than just food, but a communal connection and a spiritual agency. When Yorùbás fry àkàrà in large quantities, it is in the wake of the dead and it is distributed across every household close to the deceased; when Brazilians do, it serves as an essential ritual food in religious traditions such as Candomblé.
In a typical Candomblé ritual, the first acarajé is offered to the orixá Exu (called Èṣù in Yorùbá), a messenger between humankind and deified ancestors. Based on the offering to a specific orixá, the acarajé vary in size. Large, round acarajé are offered to the god of thunder and lightning Xangô (called Ṣàngó in Yorùbá). Ones smaller in form are offered to Iansã (Ọya in Yorùbá), the goddess of wind, lightning, magic, and fire. Small, fritter-size acarajé are offered to Erês (Eré Ìbejì in Yorùbá), or child spirits.
Beignet-like in shape, but spicy and flavored differently, acarajé is fried in the same manner everywhere, with one exception. While Yorùbás can deep fry in any oil, most Brazilians prefer the palm oil, which is called dendê in their language.
2 cup dry black-eyed peas/beans
1/4 cup water for blending (a little extra might be required)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small habanero
3 ounces red bell pepper (approximately half of one red bell pepper)
Salt to taste
Vegetable or palm oil, enough for deep frying
Soak the beans until soft enough for dehulling.
Pour the dehulled beans into a blender or food processor and pulse until it turns into a paste. Add a tablespoon of water at a time to help the blending process. Your batter should be quite thick.
Add chopped onion, habanero, and red bell pepper to the blender and pulse until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add your salt and mix.
Whisk the batter until it’s light and fluffy — hand whisk for about 3 to 4 minutes, or use an electric mixer for about a minute or two.
Heat the cooking oil in a small- to medium-sized saucepan or wok.
Using a tablespoon to scoop the batter, spoon it into the oil. You will see them puff up into round balls. Fry and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn them in the oil to ensure they are golden brown.
Once cooked, scoop them out of the oil and allow to drain on a paper towel.
Serve with bread, pap, oatmeal, yogurt, or other desired side.
Mayowa Oyewale is a writer from Ile-Ife, Nigeria, whose work has appeared in The Poetry Foundation, Gutter, The Cardiff Review, and more.
In the next issue…
The next newsletter will have… well, I’m not sure yet. We’ll find out together!
See you then!