Food Of The Feast: Kwanzaa

Woman dressed in African costume.
The seven days of Kwanzaa celebrates “Nguzo Saba”, or the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

The Karamu feast can actually be pretty modular, with dishes from Africa suggested. Yams, sesame seeds, collard greens and hot peppers were all ingredients brought to America from Africa are suggested for inclusion with the meal.

Karamu is celebrated on December 31st, bringing it on the same day as many New Year’s Eve parties. Betty Crocker suggests

  • hot spiced cider
  • green chile corn fritters
  • squash and bean soup
  • Moroccan chicken with olives
  • slow cooker jambalaya
  • hot and spicy greens
  • African squash and yams
  • black bean salad
  • coriander bread
  • cheese-garlic biscuits
  • banana-coconut bake
  • butter-rum pound cake

Additionally, an important part of Karamu is the pouring of libations. This pouring is to honor ancestors.

Kwanzaa does not actively replace any other holiday, and offers a chance to look into more historic African culture and society. Celebrating Karamu would give one a good taste of food from a whole continent that might not be readily seen otherwise.

While not largely celebrated in America, it does have its fans, and it can be celebrated by all. You may actually feature a few of the dishes indicative of Kwanzaa on your menu; possibly highlighting these for the week of Kwanzaa could allow you to enjoy the holiday in your restaurant with minimal effort.

If it fits your restaurant’s theme, you may even want to try a few of the menu items out during this time to see how they’d work on a longer-term menu. Items such as butter-rum pound cake and banana-coconut bake could easily be standards on a dessert menu, while cheddar garlic biscuits could be a standard side. Hot spiced cider might even work as a warm drink during the colder months.

If you wish to decorate for the holiday, remember the the iconic Kwanzaa colors are green, black, and red, and be respectful.