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Des pratiques alimentaires aux frontières de la discipline historique

The History of Porridge in Bantuphone Africa, with Words as Main Ingredients

L’Histoire de la « pâte » en Afrique bantouphone, avec des mots comme principaux ingrédients
Birgit Ricquier

Abstracts

The historical comparative-linguistic analysis of Bantu culinary vocabulary reveals that the stiff porridge widely consumed in Central and Southern Africa today as principal starch food was already known to the first Bantu speech communities. The preparation method changed over time. The early Bantu speakers prepared porridge as a mash from yams and later from plantains. The Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu speech communities knew cereals and made porridge from cereal flour. When cassava was introduced after the Columbian Exchange, this cereal preparation was applied to a tuber in Central Africa. Many communities living in the northwest of the Bantuphone region, however, never adopted the preparation of flour porridge. Moreover, in many communities living in the equatorial rainforest, porridge— be it from cereals or other crops—never attained status as the staple and remained one of many starch food preparations.

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  • 1  See R. Haaland, 2007.
  • 2  I am very grateful to Koen Bostoen, Monique Chastanet, Gérard Chouin, Dora de Lima, Thomas Guindeu (...)
  • 3  Although the English term ‘porridge’ may refer to dishes with different ingredients and of various (...)
  • 4  M.-J. Tubiana, 2002, p. 234.

1If Asian culinary traditions are identified by rice and European-Mediterranean cuisines by bread, sub-Saharan African culinary practices may be linked to porridge.1,2 A stiff porridge constitutes the starch component of the meal in most cultures from the Sahel to the Cape.3 It is prepared by stirring flour in boiling water with a long spatula or by pounding boiled plantains or tubers to a mash until a sticky consistency is attained. The ingredients may be cereals such as sorghum or maize, tubers such as yams or cassava, or plantains. Porridge made from flour is found from the Great Lakes to South Africa—as well as in the Sahel (for instance, porridge from millet or sorghum flour, called asida or esh in Chadic Arabic).4

  • 5  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

2What follows is a description of the preparation as observed during fieldwork in the south of the Republic of Congo. Water is brought to a boil in a large pot on the cooking fire. Once large bubbles appear, an equal amount of flour is added and first stirred in gently with a long wooden spatula. As soon as the mixture is heated through and the porridge starts thickening, the pot is taken from the fire and placed between the feet to have better control of the operation. In some areas pedals are hung at both sides of the pot to put the feet on. Using both hands, the paste then has to be kneaded with a wooden spatula until no flour and/or lumps remain. Due to its stiff and sticky consistency, this is strenuous labour.5

  • 6  P. Whitby, 1973, p. 16.
  • 7  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

3The recipe from flour to porridge displays little variation in Bantuphone Africa, exceptions such as the denser beaten porridge of the Teke of the town Ngô notwithstanding. More variation is found in the processing of the starch ingredient into flour. In the case of cereals, the process counts numerous steps. The elaborate process to obtain maize flour, for example, is described by Whitby for Zambia as follows.6 The cobs are pounded in a mortar or a basket in order to detach the grains. Another possibility is to pick the grains from the cob by hand. The grains are pounded again, along with a little water to remove the outer coat, which is then washed or winnowed away. Next, the grains are soaked for several days. The duration is two to seven days, depending on the temperature of the water. The soaked grains are coarsely pounded again and left to dry in the sun for a few hours, after which they can finally be pounded into flour. The flour is then sieved and optionally left to dry for several hours more. Note that the process includes different sequences of pounding. Cereals may also be ground into flour on grindstones. When cassava flour is the main ingredient of porridge, the process to make flour starts with the soaking of bitter tubers in water for two to seven days, depending on the temperature of the water. The tubers may be peeled before or after soaking. Next, the tubers are washed, placed in the sun to dry, either on a shelf or simply on plastic bags, pounded into flour with a mortar and pestle, and, finally, sieved.7

  • 8  C.-H. Perrot, 2002, p. 72.
  • 9  D. Westermann, 1905, p. 150; G. Innes, 1967, p. 22; see also F. Osseo-Asare, 2005, p. 28. Also in (...)
  • 10  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010; T. Ankei, 1990, p. 86.

4Porridge as a mash is mostly prepared in West and Central Africa. The Éotilé of Ivory Coast, for instance, have a mash of boiled plantains and cassava called akoende.8 The most widespread name for this dish in West Africa is fufu, found in, for example, the Ghanaian language Ewe and in Liberian Grebo.9 An example from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is a mash made of boiled pieces of sweet cassava and ripe banana, named litúmá in Lokele and mokóké in Songola.10

  • 11  J. McCann, 2009, p. 137.
  • 12  J. Hostetter, 2011, p. 267; C. Mangeot, 2010, p. 408-409.

5Porridge is not an exclusively ‘African’ dish. Different types of porridge are found all over the world, even where bread is on the menu. McCann mentions the Venetian polenta, Serbian mamalinga, and Alabaman hominy grits,11 the latter being of Native American origin. And even some Asian types of porridge are reminiscent of this kind of preparation—for example, Himalayan tsampa, made with flour of toasted barley mixed with butter tea to form a sort of dough, and the dense paste called pa ba in Ladakh, made with flour of toasted barley and legumes.12

  • 13  A. Dalby, 1996, p. 91; T. Braun, 1995, p. 34-35. Note that the cited Roman porridges are slightly (...)

6Written documents reveal that porridge has a long-standing tradition in Europe. The ancient Greeks, for instance, prepared mâza and kóllix, ‘mashes’ of barley and wheatmeal; and the Romans prepared porridge both from barley and emmer (a type of wheat, Triticum dicoccum), the first named polenta, the second puls.13 What about the porridge of sub-Saharan Africa? Is it also several millennia old?

  • 14  This paper contains results from the author’s PhD research funded by the Fonds de la Recherche Sci (...)

7This paper will tell the history of porridge as prepared by Bantu speech communities.14 The focus on Bantuphone Africa is a consequence of the method of this study, namely historical-comparative linguistics. Few, if any, written documents are available predating the arrival of Europeans in Central and Southern Africa. Moreover, archaeology and archaeobotany mostly provide information on the history of tools and ingredients. As will be demonstrated, to study the history of preparations, historical-comparative linguistics—more specifically the Words-and-Things approach—is a welcome tool.

Words as ingredients of culinary history

  • 15  B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2008.

8When no or few written documents are available and archaeology and archaeobotany do not provide sufficient answers—owing to preservation issues, for instance—words can be used as indirect evidence to study history. A word’s history reflects the history of its referents. For instance, if a word can be reconstructed in a proto-language, with a specific form and meaning, the concept it referred to in the extra-linguistic world must have been familiar to the community speaking that proto-language. An example is the verb *-bùmb-, meaning ‘to bake in ashes’, reconstructed into Proto-Bantu, which implies that the earliest Bantu speech communities were familiar with this cooking technique.15 This is the premise of the Words-and-Things approach, which applies the comparative linguistic method to cultural vocabulary. In the present paper, reconstructions will be proposed for Proto-Bantu, and these reconstructions provide evidence that the preparation and cooking techniques referred to by the lexical evidence were known to early Bantu speech communities. Words that appeared later—for example, in the proto-languages of the major Bantu subgroups—reveal new preparations and techniques. Names for these innovations may be borrowed, thus indicating that they refer to introductions and pointing to their origins. But the name may also be an older Bantu word having undergone a semantic shift, which may suggest that the new preparation or technique was easily incorporated into the existing culinary traditions. Finally, an entirely new name may be created, for instance by way of compounding or derivation. This may point to an independent innovation, a new preparation developed in situ. However, it might also be an introduction, the role of the people who brought the new knowledge possibly being of minor importance.

  • 16  B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2008. Examples from J. Hagendorens, 1975, p. 98, and K.E. Laman, 1936, p. (...)

9To distinguish inherited vocabulary from loans and innovations, the comparative method relies on sound correspondences. To take the example of *-bùmb-, ‘to bake in ashes’, verbs such as Tetela -fumbá and Kongo -vùmba display the regular outcomes of a sound change called spirantization, which affects the first consonant in front of a high vowel.16 Inherited words usually display regular sound correspondences, whereas irregularity often points to loanwords. But a word’s semantic history must also be taken into consideration, since a semantic shift can point to changes in the extra-linguistic world. Finally, the geographical coverage of the lexical item must be taken into account. When reflexes, namely the words in contemporary languages that reflect a reconstructed proto-form, occur in a continuous region, this may point to borrowing, especially when it cuts through language family borders. A discontinuous distribution, on the other hand, with reflexes as distant spots on the map, suggests inheritance.

  • 17  Three months of fieldwork were conducted in the summer of 2010. The first month of fieldwork, I pa (...)
  • 18  The code H10 refers to Guthrie’s classification of the Bantu languages (M. Guthrie, 1948; 1967; 19 (...)

10Considering the scope of research, the lexical data leading to the results presented in this paper were mostly retrieved from dictionaries and glossaries. Fieldwork was conducted only for some Kongo (H10) language varieties and a few languages of Guthrie’s zone C spoken along the Congo River.17,18 Finally, for the Kongo (H10) language group, some historical documents have also been consulted.

The history of Bantu speech communities

11When using lexical evidence to study the past, it is the history of the relevant speech communities that is uncovered. The peoples studied are thus necessarily defined by language. In the present paper, the comparative method is applied to culinary vocabulary in the Bantu languages. Consequently, the history of porridge presented here speaks of the preparation methods from past Bantu speech communities. But who were they?

  • 19  D. Nurse, G. Philippson, 2003, p. 5; K. Bostoen, C. Grégoire, 2007, p. 77.
  • 20  Detailed overviews of the Bantu Expansion from different perspectives are offered by J. Vansina (1 (...)
  • 21  See M.K.H. Eggert, 1994-1995; H.-P. Wotzka, 1995; K. Bostoen, 2006.
  • 22  See for instance P. de Maret, 1986; J. Denbow, 1990; R. Lanfranchi, 1991; K. Misago, 1991; P. de M (...)
  • 23  See D.W. Phillipson, 2005, p. 249ff.

12The Bantu languages are currently spoken from the south of Cameroon in the west, to Kenya in the east, and as far as South Africa in the south. Despite this impressive geographical coverage, the Bantu language family is only a subgroup of the Niger–Congo language phylum. The first Bantu speakers must have lived in the Nigerian–Cameroonian borderland, most probably the Cameroonian Grassfields region some 5,000 to 4,000 years ago.19 From this Bantu homeland, the Bantu languages spread across the continent, an event or sequence of events commonly referred to as “the Bantu Expansion”.20 Communities speaking ancestor languages of the Northwest Bantu subgroup stayed more or less in situ. The others moved east or south. Early archaeological sites in the equatorial rainforest that may be linked to the presence of Bantu speakers date to the second half of the first millennium BC.21 The inhabitants of these sites may well have been the ancestors of the current Congo Basin speech communities. South of the rainforest, the earliest sites possibly occupied by Bantu speakers date to the same period.22 Languages currently spoken in this area belong to the West-Coastal subgroup. Further south, another subgroup emerged, namely Southwest Bantu. To the east of the rainforest, in the Great Lakes region, sites have been uncovered that again date to the second half of the first millennium BC.23 The sites are linked to ancestor speech communities of the current East Bantu speakers. A rapid dispersal along the East African coasts in less than two centuries led these cultures to the south of the continent.

In the beginning: mashing the porridge

  • 24  J. Maley, 2001, p. 784; J.R. Watters, 2003, p. 225.
  • 25  Respectively J. Vansina, 1994-1995, p. 15; C. Ehret, 1998, p. 12-14.
  • 26  Reconstructions from J. Maniacky, 2005.

13The first Bantu speech communities lived in the Grassfields region, a mosaic of forest and savannah patches that owes its name to the tall elephant or napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum).24This region is part of the area where a farming system developed characterized by the domestication of yams (Dioscorea sp.), hence called the “root-crop complex” or the “West African Planting Agriculture”.25 Yams indeed constituted the staple starch food of these early Bantu speakers. The importance of the crop is evidenced by the diverse reconstructions that can be made into Proto-Bantu, namely *‑kʊ̀á, *‑bàdá, *‑dʊ́ndʊ́, *‑kàmbà, etc.26 Some of these also occur in non-Bantu Niger–Congo, thus indicating that the ancestors of the early Bantuphone peoples also consumed yams. Given the number of reconstructions, it can be assumed that different species were known. Unfortunately, hardly any reconstruction can be linked to a specific yam species; therefore, it is difficult to determine which species early Bantu speakers may have prepared. However, since many wild yams occur in the Bantu area, it is not certain that yams were already cultivated at that time.

  • 27  Reconstructions made by the author are noted without affixes, except for derivational suffixes, in (...)
  • 28  The formal analysis of the reconstructions presented in this paper is found in B. Ricquier, 2012-2 (...)
  • 29  Reconstructions from K. Bostoen, 2005.
  • 30  Reconstruction of the noun adapted from A. Bulkens, 1999.
  • 31  A. Bulkens, 1998.
  • 32  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

14Yams may be simply boiled to serve as the starch component of a meal. Certainly, this cooking technique was known to the first Bantu speakers, as is indicated by the Proto-Bantu reconstructions *-ìpɩk- and *-dámb-, ‘to cook in a liquid, boil’ (see Tables 1 and 2, and Map 2).27 Both words have regular reflexes in several Bantu subgroups, thus proving their ancestry.28 However, the Proto-Bantu reconstruction *NP9-kímà tells us that the first Bantu speakers also prepared porridge (see Table 3 and Map 1). The semantic history of this noun, as well as the absence of ancient vocabulary related to the other preparation technique in the Northwest of the Bantu domain and the equatorial rainforest, reveals that this porridge was prepared as a mash of boiled tubers by the first Bantu speakers. The tubers were first boiled in ceramic pots, *-jʊ̀ngʊ́ (‘pot for the boiling of foodstuffs’), or the more generic *-bɩ̀gá in Proto-Bantu.29 Next, they were pounded into a mash. Reconstructions relative to this action are *‑tẃ- (‘to pound’) (see Table 4) and *NP7-dù ~ *NP7-nù(‘wooden mortar’).30 The two words have related forms in other Niger–Congo languages and thus predate Bantu. This means that the preparatory technique of pounding belonged to the inherited culinary repertoire of the first Bantu speech communities. No reconstruction could be made for ‘pestle’. The widespread nouns that can be reconstructed as *NP3-ìcɩ̀ 31 can be attributed only to the proto-languages of the subgroups East and Southwest Bantu. Considering that mortars were known by the first Bantu speech communities, they must have also used pestles. The fact that no reconstruction can be made for Proto-Bantu does not exclude this idea, but rather implies that there was no need to denote this instrument with a special name. Instead, a more generic concept such as ‘stick’ might have covered the meaning ‘pestle’, as it does in the present-day languages Xeso (C52)moté mo xelingí (‘stick of the mortar’, hence ‘pestle’) and Sundi (H16b) mutí (‘stick, pestle’).32

  • 33  The time and routes of the introduction of bananas and plantains in sub-Saharan Africa is still th (...)
  • 34  C.M. Mbida et al., 2001.
  • 35  See K. Neumann, E. Hildebrand, 2009, p. 356-359.
  • 36  M. Guthrie, 1970a, p. 286, 298.
  • 37  J. Vansina, 1990, p. 62-64.
  • 38  E. De Langhe et al., 1994-1995, p. 152-158; G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 111.
  • 39  The first consonant of the noun root does not follow regular sound correspondences, which indicate (...)

15The preparation of mashed porridge soon could be applied to a new starch ingredient: plantain (Musa sp.). This crop of Asian origin appeared quite early on the menu of Bantu speakers.33 The oldest archaeobotanical evidence in the Bantuphone area consists of phytoliths found at the Nkang site in southern Cameroon that date between 800 and 400 cal BC.34 These finds, however, are problematic.35 Lexical evidence also suggests that plantains were known at an early date. Osculant reconstructions—that is, reconstructions similar in form and semantic value so that a common origin may be suspected—were proposed by Guthrie as *‑kòndè, *‑kòndò and *‑kò (‘banana’).36 Reflexes of these forms occur both in West and East Bantu languages, indicating that the words form an old loanword series. As Vansina observes, the reconstructed meaning should be the more specific ‘plantain’, since it is the main referent of the reflexes in both subgroups.37 De Langhe et al. suggest that the initial consonant of the above-mentioned terms should be reconstructed as *g, as do Philippson and Bahuchet.38 De Langhe et al. propose a loanword scenario in which plantains were introduced in the northwest of the Bantuphone region, from where the crop and its names were diffused to the east and south of the rainforest through borrowing. A porridge made of mashed plantains is part of the culinary repertoire of many Bantuphone peoples today, so it is likely that the preparation was also applied to this crop by the first Bantu speakers familiar with the plant. At least in Kunyi (H13), the Proto-Bantu noun realized as nkhímà refers to porridge of boiled and mashed plantains.39

A change in staple, a change in preparation techniques

  • 40  See D. Schwartz, 1992; J. Maley, 2001.
  • 41  K. Bostoen, 2006-2007.
  • 42  So did Afro–Asiatic speech communities. J. Vansina, 1994-1995, p. 15, talks about the “grain and h (...)
  • 43  Reconstruction adapted from G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 117.
  • 44  See G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 106, 110.

16Speakers of Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu settled in a savannah ecosystem east and south of the equatorial rainforest, where cereals are better suited as main starch food. Following the Savannah Corridor hypothesis,40 this environment may not have been entirely new, but lexical evidence demonstrates that significant changes in subsistence strategy and culinary practice orientated towards life in a savannah ecosystem did not occur beforehand. In the savannah regions of East and Southern Africa, three cereals are currently grown that are of African origin: pearl millet (Pennisetumglaucum), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), and finger millet (Eleusine coracana). Speakers of Proto-East Bantu first integrated pearl millet into their diet. The name for this cereal in many East Bantu languages, *-bèdé, suggests that they adopted cereal cultivation from Nilo–Saharan speech communities,41 whose ancestors had developed a farming system based on grain cultivation and livestock.42 East Bantu speakers started cultivating sorghum and finger millet only after the languages of this group had started diverging. The Proto-Northeast Savannah reconstruction *NP6-pémbá (‘sorghum’) demonstrates that sorghum was the second cereal to be adopted.43 Terms for ‘finger millet’ are more diverse and can be reconstructed only at a lower level.44 Finger millet thus must have been the last cereal to have been introduced to East Bantu speech communities.

  • 45  See C. Ehret, 1998, p. 268-271; J. Vansina, 2004, p. 76, 78.
  • 46  M. Eggert et al., 2006; S. Kahlheber et al., 2009.
  • 47  K. Bostoen, 2006-2007.
  • 48  K. Bostoen, 2007, p. 21.

17Contrary to earlier hypotheses that cereals were introduced from the east of the Bantu domain to the southwest,45 West Bantu speech communities were probably familiar with cereal cultivation at an earlier date. Archaeobotanical evidence dates the presence of pearl millet in southern Cameroon to 400–200 BC.46 Lexical evidence, namely the reconstruction *‑cángʊ́, confirms that this cereal was already known to Proto-Southwest Bantu speech communities, possibly even to their ancestors, the speakers of Proto-West Bantu.47 Finger millet may also have been cultivated at an early date, as the wide distribution of terms reconstructible as *NP11-kʊ suggests. It may again have been a word in the Proto-Southwest Bantu lexicon, or even older, but more research is needed on this term. The same observations apply to sorghum. A reconstruction with the form *-cà could be proposed,48 and the wide distribution of reflexes in West Bantu suggests an early presence of the crop. In summary, cereal cultivation was already known to Proto-Southwest Bantu speakers, and possibly even to the ancestor community speaking Proto-West Bantu. The lexical evidence does not inform us from whom the West Bantu speech communities adopted the knowledge of cereal cultivation.

  • 49  Apart from the details offered in B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, part of the linguistic analysis leading (...)

18When a new ingredient appears on the menu, people need to know how to prepare it. Plantains could be easily incorporated into the existing culinary traditions, techniques such as boiling and mashing being applicable to this starchy fruit. Cereals, in contrast, cannot be mashed directly into porridge. Still, the three cereals became the most important ingredients of porridge in the savannah areas of the Bantuphone region. New techniques became part of the culinary repertoire of Bantu speakers, enabling them to transform cereals into porridge. Cereals are first threshed, then pounded and/or ground into flour, and, finally, the flour is stirred in boiling water to obtain a stiff porridge. Both speakers of Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu prepared porridge this way, as is evidenced from the following reconstructions: Proto-East Bantu *-dúg- and Proto-Southwest Bantu *-ìpɩk- (see Tables 5 and 1 respectively, and Map 2), both referring to the action of stirring porridge.49 East and Southwest Bantu speakers retained the Proto-Bantu word for ‘porridge’, *NP9-kímà, but it became applied to porridge made from flour instead of the original mashed version (see Table 3 and Map 1). The two subgroups also share the noun reconstructed as *NP3-ìkò, referring to the stirring stick (see Table 6 and Map 6). This noun is problematic. The fact that it is part of the lexicon in two subgroups suggests that it is an inherited word. The only common ancestor of the East and Southwest Bantu languages is Proto-Bantu, but no regular reflexes were found in Northwest and other West Bantu languages, thus making a Proto-Bantu status unlikely. A loanword scenario is not probable either, given the geographical gap that separates the Southwest Bantu homeland from the early East Bantu languages. The origins of this noun remain somewhat of a mystery, but at least it is certain that its referent, the stirring stick, was known to speakers of Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu.

19Proto-East Bantu also contains many words related to the preparation of flour. First of all, there are the two reconstructions referring to the product itself: *NP14-tù and *NP14‑ʊ̀ngà (‘flour’) (see Tables 7 and 8, and Map 3). Next, the lexical field of ‘pounding’ had become diversified. Proto-East Bantu speakers distinguished the threshing and husking of grains—by pounding (*-cok-ʊd-) or, more generally, beating (*-pʊ́-ʊd-)—from other types of pounding, such as *-pònd- (‘to pound in order to pulverize or mash’) (see Tables 9, 10 and 11, and Maps 4 and 5). Hence, they had developed specialized vocabulary relative to the processing of grains. Moreover, Proto-East Bantu counts two new verbs for ‘grinding’ (*‑kìd- and *-pèd-), next to the inherited *-cè- reflexes. As mentioned, Proto-East Bantu speech communities were familiar only with pearl millet. It can thus be concluded that pearl millet porridge was a staple starch food of Proto-East Bantu speakers. Porridge from sorghum and finger millet flour appeared only later on the menu.

20For Proto-Southwest Bantu, less lexical evidence is available. Apart from the verb and noun related to the processing of flour into porridge, no other relevant reconstructions could be proposed. The only possible observations are that the lexical field for ‘pounding’ became diversified and that inherited ‘grinding’ verbs were replaced by a high number of new words. The reconstruction *-cop-ʊd- with the specialized meaning ‘to pound foodstuffs that do not require force or high intensity’ could be made (see Table 12 and Map 4), but no verbs could be reconstructed with an exclusive reference to the processing of cereals. Still, the diversification of the lexical field implies that different types of pounding could be distinguished, which is possibly due to the introduction of new foodstuffs that require novel preparatory techniques, such as cereals. No complex lexical field arose for ‘grinding’, but the verbs differ in form from one language to the other. At first sight, it looks like a new preparatory technique, were it not for the fact that ‘grinding’ verbs can be reconstructed into Proto-Bantu and that some Southwest Bantu languages retained one of these. Again, the only conclusion is that a change in culinary traditions occurred; but there is no further indication as to what change that might have been.

  • 50  See T. Obenga, 1985; A. Hilton, 1985, p. 5, 78-79; J.K. Thornton, 1998, p. 15-16.
  • 51  J. Vansina, 1995, considers West-Coastal Bantu to be one group. Y. Bastin et al., 1999, p. 128, po (...)

21The remaining Bantu speech communities currently living in a savannah environment and preparing porridge from cereal flour have languages belonging to the West-Coastal Bantu subgroup. The Mbuun, for instance, prepare finger millet porridge. And although cereal porridge is absent from the Kongo menu today, European travellers observed it to be the staple starch food in the Kongo Kingdom in the 16th and 17th centuries.50 The linguistic evidence demonstrates that flour porridge is a more recent preparation for the speech communities concerned. Although it is not certain that West-Coastal Bantu languages form one genetic unit, much of the vocabulary related to flour porridge preparation is shared by languages of the three subgroups Kongo-Kwilu, Nzebi, and Teke.51 However, most of the words appear to be loans. The nouns for ‘stirring stick’, for instance, are related to the reconstruction *NP3-ìkò, but not in a regular way. The vocabulary for ‘flour’ and ‘flour porridge’ is heterogeneous, making reconstructions impossible; and part of the vocabulary is a series of loanwords, as will be discussed in the following paragraph. An exception is *NP9-kímà, of which reflexes were found only in Kongo languages. Remarkably, the regular reflexes refer to ‘flour porridge’, as in East and Southwest Bantu languages, whereas the irregular reflexes refer to ‘mashed porridge’, the original referent. Of course, it is not known when the semantic shift towards ‘flour porridge’ occurred and, hence, whether the noun was inherited with this semantic value or it underwent the shift independently, possibly under the influence of other languages. Finally, West-Coastal Bantu languages differ from East and Southwest Bantu in that they retained older Bantu vocabulary for ‘grinding’ (*-nyìk-/*‑nyùk-) and do not have a complex lexical field for ‘pounding’. In general, it appears that West-Coastal languages adopted flour porridge at a later date, thus after the subgroup(s) had started diverging. Considering that they share certain vocabulary with East and Southwest Bantu languages but mostly in the form of loans, the adoption of flour porridge may well have been the result of contact with the mentioned speech communities.

22In summary, stirring flour in boiling water was a new preparation technique, fit for the transformation of new ingredients such as pearl millet into the familiar staple starch food, porridge. It must have been part of Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu culinary traditions, but entered West-Coastal Bantu cuisines at a later date. But where did the new preparation come from? Was it borrowed from other peoples, or was it an innovation from Bantu speakers? All lexical evidence discussed has Bantu origins. The preparation of flour porridge thus could be considered to be an example of the culinary inventiveness of Bantu speakers as a response to a new starch ingredient, namely pearl millet and, in the West, perhaps also finger millet and sorghum. Several elements, however, argue against an independent innovation. The preparation of porridge from flour is entirely different from the older method of boiling and pounding tubers. Second, the new vocabulary related to the processing of grains into flour suggests that Bantu speakers had no previous knowledge of these techniques. Moreover, the different words in East and Southwest Bantu for several steps in the preparation process would then suggest that the culinary innovation occurred twice and independently—an unlikely assumption. Still, the only word that points to non-Bantu origins is *NP14-gàdɩ̀, which refers to the end product, flour porridge (see Table 13 and Map 1). The reconstructed noun was probably part of the Proto-Northeast Savannah lexicon, but it may be even older. Forms similar to *NP14-gàdɩ̀ are found in geographically distant East Bantu languages, which indicates that this non-Bantu word was known to early East Bantu speakers. However, the widespread distribution of *NP9-kímà reflexes referring to the same preparation reveals that most of them preferred to use the inherited Bantu name for ‘porridge’. Words related to *NP14-gàdɩ̀ are found in Nilo–Saharan and Afro–Asiatic languages as far as Nigeria. The word must have been borrowed by East Bantu speech communities from either Nilo–Saharan or Afro–Asiatic speakers. Irregular reflexes, occurring in geographically distant East Bantu languages, can be grouped into loanword series, which demonstrates that the word was borrowed more than once and possibly from different source languages at an early stage in the expansion of East Bantu languages. Based on this loanword, it can be hypothesized that the preparation of flour porridge has a longer tradition amongst Nilo–Saharan and Afro–Asiatic speech communities and that the preparation method was borrowed from these, or one of these, communities. However, more lexical evidence is needed to corroborate this hypothesis.

23The observations made apply to East Bantu speech communities. No lexical evidence can offer information on the origins of flour porridge as prepared by Southwest Bantu speech communities. As for West-Coastal Bantu peoples, it has already been mentioned that they probably obtained the new culinary techniques from East or Southwest Bantu speakers.

Tubers again in the mix

  • 52  J. McCann, 2009, p. 137.
  • 53  J. Vansina, 1962, p. 387; S. Bahuchet, G. Philippson, 1998, p. 92; J. McCann, 2005, p. 29-30.
  • 54  In contrast to maize, whose grains or ears shipped between colonies can produce new plants, the in (...)
  • 55  See W.O. Jones, 1959, p. 62; J. Redinha, 1968, p. 96.
  • 56  J. Vansina, 1997, p. 256-258.
  • 57  J. Redinha, 1968, p. 96.
  • 58  On cassava preparations as food supply for caravans, see B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, p. 245-262, 264.

24Porridge in contemporary Central and Southern Africa is usually made from ingredients other than the ones cited above. As McCann describes, when travelling through Eastern and Southern Africa, one may be served the same dish over and over again: a stiff porridge made from maize flour.52 In Central Africa, the main ingredient of porridge is cassava. The two plants have American origins and reached the continent as part of the Columbian Exchange. Maize (Zea mays) was introduced to sub-Saharan Africa in the mid-16th century.53 Cassava (Manihot esculenta) arrived several decades later.54 In 1593, a shipment of cassava flour was transported from Brazil to feed the Portuguese colonies in Angola, and these shipments also occurred in the period between 1601 and 1611.55 Soon, the plant itself was introduced. Based on historical observations, it can be stated that cassava was planted from the third decade of the 17th century onwards.56 In notes made between 1624 and 1630, the governor of Angola, Fernão de Sousa, boasted that soon, enough cassava would be produced to even ship it to the colonies in Brazil.57 The tuber was adopted by the local people of West-Central Africa by the end of the 17th century, first in the context of trade, later on as main ingredient of the staple, porridge.58

  • 59  A distinction is made between ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ varieties of cassava. The first contain toxins (...)
  • 60  W.H. Bentley, 1887, p. 32, 328; R. Butaye, 1909, p. 121-122. Luku and fufu, discussed in the follo (...)
  • 61  J.W. Van Gheel, 1652, p. 72. Collaboration with the KONGOKING project (Ghent University, coordinat (...)
  • 62  See lexical evidence in B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, p. 215-219.

25Both crops were integrated into the local culinary traditions as staple starch foods, as their processing into porridge indicates. Maize being another cereal—albeit with grains of different dimensions—its preparation as flour porridge is not surprising. Cassava, on the other hand, is a tuber. It would be expected that the tubers are boiled and mashed into porridge as is done with yams. However, in large parts of Central Africa, the bitter variety of cassava is processed into flour and flour porridge.59 Consequently, a preparation originally intended for the processing of cereals has become applied to a tuber. This change in porridge ingredients is clearly reflected in the noun luku, which refers in certain Kongo varieties to cassava flour and the porridge made from it.60 The noun is a regular reflex of the reconstruction *NP11-kʊ, mentioned above, which originally referred to ‘finger millet’. The 17th-century Kongo dictionary still translates lúcúas ‘panicum’, thus referring to a cereal.61 The current meaning of the noun suggests a semantic shift from ‘finger millet’ to ‘(finger millet) flour porridge’ and ultimately ‘cassava flour porridge’. The Kongo speakers concerned thus integrated the tuber in their cereal-based diet. Indeed, also the other vocabulary related to cassava flour porridge preparation is older Bantu lexicon. To make flour from bitter cassava, the steps required that diverge from cereal processing are soaking (to detoxify the tubers), drying in the sun, and pounding. All techniques mentioned were already known by the first Bantu speech communities.62 Only the word for the new ingredient was borrowed. The denominations mayákain Northern Kongo varieties and madyókoin Southern Kongo varieties are loans from Portuguese mandioca, which in turn is borrowed from mani-oca in Tupinambá, an Amerindian language spoken at the time in Brazil.

  • 63  J. Van Wing, C. Penders, 1928, p. 192.
  • 64  Dapper, 1676, in J. Vansina, 1997, p. 256.
  • 65  Anonymous, 1773, p. 303. The dictionary is attributed to J.-J. Descourvières.

26Cassava flour porridge is also prepared by Bantu speakers whose ancestors were not familiar with porridge made from flour. The Bantu speech communities concerned are mainly situated in the equatorial rainforest, an area where cereals such as millet and sorghum do not thrive and the adoption of this preparation technique had thus not been required previously. The relative novelty of the dish for these speech communities is indicated by the high number of regional loanword series referring to ‘flour’ and ‘flour porridge’. An example is the word fúfu, which refers to ‘cassava flour’ and ‘cassava flour porridge’ in languages spoken along the Congo River (see Table 14 and Map 1). The origins of this word are found at the Congo River estuary. The noun is mentioned in the 17th-century Kongo dictionary re-edited by Van Wing and Penders, with the general meaning ‘flour’,63 and in the first half of the 17th century it referred, according to Dapper, to maize flour at the Loango Coast.64The reference to cassava flour and porridge was recorded no later than 1773, in a Kakongo dictionary, as zi foufu amai[a]ka (« farine de manioc, sorte de pain, ou plutôt la bouillie bien épaisse, faite avec la farine de mais ou de magnoc »).65The irregular sound correspondences of the related nouns in several languages along the Congo River indicate that the noun was further diffused through borrowing. Consequently, it was the introduction of the tuber cassava that led to the adoption of the alternative preparatory technique to obtain porridge.

Mashed porridge, still

  • 66  Y. Nzang-Bie, pers. comm.
  • 67  T. Ankei, 1990, p. 89; B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.
  • 68  See B. Ricquier, 2011. Chikwangue is a firm paste of bitter cassava which has been soaked, drained (...)

27The introduction of cassava was not accompanied by the integration of flour porridge in all Bantu speech communities. In the Northwest of the Bantu domain, several communities, such as the Fang in Gabon, do not prepare cassava or any other starch ingredient into flour porridge.66 Cassava may be prepared as a mash of boiled tubers. It is often sweet cassava that is prepared in this way—for instance, Songola ka.ombóomba, and Lokele litúmáto which (sweet) bananas are added.67 The preparation of mashed porridge is mostly found today amongst peoples living in the equatorial rainforest. Nevertheless, mashed porridge has never attained the status of the principal starch food, in contrast to the case of flour porridge in savannah regions. Starch ingredients such as yams, cassava, and plantains may also be roasted or boiled. Moreover, a popular cassava preparation in the region is a wrap of bitter cassava, known as chikwanguealong the Congo River.68 The high diversity in names for ‘mashed porridge’ may be indicative of this lower importance of the dish, although it may also be a consequence of the current variety in ingredients. In Cameroonian languages of Guthrie’s zone A, there is even a loanword series to name ‘mashed porridge’. The noun fùfúis phonologically irregular and is found in a continuous area, thus indicating it is a loan (see Table 14 and Map 1). Similar words are found in West-African languages of diverse Niger–Congo subgroups, so the Bantu languages concerned must have borrowed the noun from one of these Niger–Congo languages. However, it cannot be concluded that the word reflects the introduction of a new dish. The reflexes of Proto-Bantu *NP9-kímà ‘mashed porridge’ in several Northwest Bantu languages are reminiscent of the preparation’s long-standing tradition in the area. An explanation may be found in the status of the preparation. As mentioned, it is likely that mashed porridge never played a central role in the diet whereas West-African fùfúdoes. The introduction of a new word could be paired to the introduction of a new concept, namely mashed porridge as the staple starch food.

Final observations

  • 69  M. Chastanet, 2002.

28The present paper offers the history of a sub-Saharan African preparation, a subject that is not often explored, notable exceptions such as Chastanet notwithstanding.69 The results may be considered exceptional, given the absence of written documents dating to the period before the arrival of Europeans in Central and Southern Africa and the little information available on culinary history from archaeological and archaeobotanical research. The Words-and-Things approach applied to the vocabulary of the different steps, tools, and products in the preparation process, called la chaîne opératoire in French, allowed for the discovery of inherited cooking techniques and more recent culinary knowledge. It can be concluded that stiff porridge, as served as the starch constituent of the meal in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, is a millennia-old preparation, as is European polenta, but that its preparation method changed over the course of centuries. Moreover, the changes in preparation techniques could be linked to the introduction of new ingredients.

  • 70  See K. Bostoen, 2009.

29But not everything could be revealed. The comparative method suffers from several drawbacks. First of all, the available lexical evidence could not indicate if and from whom the technique of stirring porridge was borrowed. Most of the vocabulary referring to new techniques, tools, and products were inherited Bantu words that underwent a semantic shift. Only one word, namely *NP14-gàdɩ̀, could be identified as a loan, and it appeared to be more recent than the change in cooking techniques. A second problem is semantic vagueness.70 No research could be done on nouns for ‘grinding stones’ since these objects are most often simply referred to as ‘stones’ or ‘stones for grinding’. The same is true for ‘stirring stick’ and ‘pestle’ in several West Bantu languages, both being called ‘stick’. However, the research also benefited from highly specialized vocabulary such as the verbs for ‘stirring flour in boiling water’ and the different ‘pounding’ verbs. Finally, more research is necessary on the historical background. Since many of the extra-linguistic referents discussed in this paper are not found in the archaeological record, the results of the linguistic analysis can be integrated into a historical framework based only on linguistic methods, namely the Bantu Expansion. Many aspects of the Bantu Expansion are still under discussion. Changes in the sub-classification of the Bantu languages and/or its historical interpretation may alter the presented historical narrative substantially.

30Despite these drawbacks, the benefits of the comparative method for research on culinary history have been clearly demonstrated. Further research may be envisaged. The paper focused on the history of porridge for Bantu speech communities, but it would be interesting to look beyond Bantu. Given that Bantu speakers may have borrowed one of the preparation techniques, namely stirring flour porridge, from non-Bantuphone peoples, it would be useful to apply the same methodology to vocabulary from the Nilo–Saharan and Afro–Asiatic speech communities concerned. The other technique, mashing porridge, was reconstructed for the Proto-Bantu speech community. Research on related Niger–Congo languages could reveal whether the history of the dish can be traced even further back in time or whether it is a Bantu innovation.

Tables and Maps

Appendix 1: Some lexical evidence

  • 71  It is not possible to provide the long list of evidence here. Therefore, only representative examp (...)

Table 1: *-ìpɩk- : Proto-Bantu ‘to cook’, Proto-Southwest Bantu ‘to stir porridge’71

Northwest Bantu

Duala (A24)

ipe̱

tr. cuire: ~dá cuire la nourriture

(P. Helmlinger, 1972, p. 179)

East Bantu

Swahili (G42)

‑pika

Cuire en gén., faire bouillir.

(C. Sacleux, 1941, p. 748)

East Bantu

Xhosa (S41)

-pheka

to cook

(A. Fischer et al., 1985, p. 123)

Southwest Bantu

Cokwe (K11)

-híka

v.t. Fazer ou remexer o pirão (ou puré de feijão) com a espátula.

(A.C. Barbosa, 1989, p. 100)

Southwest Bantu

Umbundu (R11)

pika

to stir mush, cook mush

(West Central African Mission, 1911, p. 124)

Table 2: *‑dámb- : Proto-Bantu ‘to cook in a liquid, to boil’

  • 72  This language is classified by Y. Bastin et al., 1999, as Northwest Bantu, but belongs according t (...)

Peripheral Bantu (Buneya)

Tuki (A601)

námbá

cuire à l’étouffée

(J.-J.M. Essono, 1980)

Northwest or peripheral Bantu72

Mpongwe (B11a)

namba

Faire cuire (à l’eau).

(A. Raponda-Walker, 1934, p. 312)

Congo Basin

Mbuza (C36c)

‑lámb‑

cuisiner, cuire à l’eau

(B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010)

West-Coastal Bantu

Yaka (H31)

-láámbá

bouillir, cuire, préparer la nourriture (toujours en eau)

(S.J.P. Ruttenberg, 2000, p. 60-61, 302)

East Bantu

Lulua (L31b)

kúlaambá

to cook, to boil; faire la cuisine, cuire

(Y. Yukawa, 1992, p. 13)

Table 3: *NP9-kímà : Proto-Bantu ‘mashed porridge’, Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu ‘flour porridge’

Northwest Bantu

Fang (A75)

ntsima – mintsima

(h) 1. Banane verte cuite et écrasée en pâte (ntsip).

(S. Galley, 1964, p. 250)

East Bantu

Gikuyu (E51)

ngime, ~

mashed food, mash

(T.G. Benson, 1964, p. 308)

East Bantu

Swahili (G42)

sima

(Mv.) Bouillie épaisse de farine. // (Ngw.) Bouillie épaisse de farine, surtout de manioc.

(C. Sacleux, 1941, p. 805)

West-Coastal Bantu

Yombe (H16c)

tsíímá

boule ou pain de farine de manioc ou de maïs

(J. De Grauwe, 2009, p. 85)

Southwest Bantu

Kwanyama (R21)

osifima

millet-meal porridge

(G.W.R. Tobias, B.H.C. Turvey, 1976, p. 136)

Table 4: *-tẃ- : Proto-Bantu ‘to pound (generic)’

Northwest Bantu

Duala (A24)

ló̱

fouler, piler

(P. Helmlinger, 1972, p. 251)

Congo Basin

Tetela (C71)

tɔ́

tr./i. piler, égruger; ...

(J. Hagendorens, 1975, p. 392)

West-Coastal Bantu

Ntandu (H16g)

-tú-

piler, frapper

(J. Daeleman, 1983, p. 388)

East Bantu

Yao (P21)

-twá

pound in a mortar

(A. Ngunga, 2001)

Southwest Bantu

Nyaneka (R13)

-twa

moer apiloando o grão no almofariz; pisar grãos no almofariz; triturar, moer, pulverizar (apiloar)

(A.J. da Silva, 1966, p. 361, 434, 590)

Table 5: *-dúg- : Proto-Bantu ‘to paddle’, Proto-East Bantu ‘to stir porridge’, regional East Bantu ‘to cook’

Northwest Bantu

Duala (A24)

duà

meist dua pai rudern; ramer; row

(J. Ittmann, E. Kähler-Meyer, 1976, p. 130)

East Bantu

Ganda (J15)

kù-vugà

1. row; paddle. 2. pedal. 3. drive (motorcar), etc.)

(R.A. Snoxall, 1967, p. 324)

East Bantu

Shi (J53)

kudugä

cuire la pâte à l’eau

(J.-B. Cuypers, 1970, p. 89)

East Bantu

Yao (P21)

-wúgá

stir (porridge) while adding the flour.

(A. Ngunga, 2001)

East Bantu

Gikuyu (E51)

ruga

v.t. (generally) cook; (specifically) boil

(T.G. Benson, 1964, p. 407)

Table 6: *NP3-ìkò: Proto-East and Proto-Southwest Bantu ‘stirring stick’, later loanword in West-Coastal Bantu

East Bantu

Gikuyu (E51)

mũiko, mi-

1. broad-ended mashing stick. 2. paddle, oar [Sw. mwiko]

(T.G. Benson, 1964, p. 185)

East Bantu

Bemba (M42)

umwiko

stirring stick

(P. Whitby, 1973, p. 68)

Southwest Bantu

Ngangela (K10)

liko (meko)

large paddle or stick for stirring porridge

(E. Pearson, 1970, p. 155)

Southwest Bantu

Kwanyama (R21)

oluko

stout stick or rod used for stirring oshifima porridge while cooking

(B.H.C. Turvey, 1977, p. 83)

West-Coastal Bantu

Kamba (H112A)

muukú – myuukú

spatule (pour malaxer la farine)

(B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010)

Table 7: *NP14-tù: Proto-East Bantu ‘flour’

East Bantu

Gikuyu (E51)

mũtu

flour, meal; ~ wa mbembe, maize meal; ~ wa ngano, wheat flour

(T.G. Benson, 1964, p. 463)

East Bantu

Bende (F12)

bhúfú

flour; meal

(Y. Abe, 2006, p. 7)

East Bantu

Makua (P31)

otchú (o)

farinha, pó a que se reduzem os cereais depois de moídos

(A. Valente de Matos, 1974, p. 190)

Table 8: *NP14‑ʊ̀ngà: Proto-East Bantu ‘flour’, also in some West-Bantu languages through borrowing

East Bantu

Swahili (G42)

ũnga

(G. vunga, Ngw. bunga, unga) sing. et coll. Farine, poudre; parfois pâte

(C. Sacleux, 1941, p. 955)

East Bantu

Bemba (M42)

u/bunga

flour, meal

(The White Fathers, 1954, p. 54)

Southwest Bantu

Ngangela (K10)

vunga (monga)

flour, meal

(E. Pearson, 1970, p. 388)

Table 9: *-cok-ʊd-: early East Bantu ‘to remove the grains from the stalks or the outer coat of the grain by pounding’

East Bantu

Gikuyu (E51)

thokora

v.t. pound; separate grain from chaff by rubbing; ~ mundu, give a person a good beating

(T.G. Benson, 1964, p. 524)

East Bantu

Sanga (L35)

-sòkol-

battre au pilon et à sec, pour détacher le grain de l’épi (maïs, sorgho) (première opération)

(A. Coupez, 1976, p. S222)

East Bantu

Changana (S53)

-tlhòkòlà

separar o grão do farelo (com pilão)

(B. Sitoe, 1996, p. 222)

Table 10: *-pʊ́-ʊd- : Proto-East Bantu ‘taking off the husks/chaff of grains by beating, i.e. threshing’

East Bantu

Nkore (J13)

okuhû:ra

to thresh (millet, wheat, etc.) by beating with a big stick

(S. Kaji, 2004, p. 316)

East Bantu

Lungu (M14)

úkúpuula

to thresh by be[a]ting with a stick (of millet)

(R. Kagaya, 1987, p. 89)

East Bantu

Venda (S21)

-fhu̍la

thresh, as sorghum

(N.J. van Warmelo, 1989, p. 56)

Table 11: *-pònd- : Proto-East Bantu ‘to pound in order to pulverize or mash’

East Bantu

Swahili (G42)

-põnda

Battre ou piler pour écraser, aplatir ou mélanger; piler au mortier ou autrement, mais piler pour broyer complètement, à la différence de -twanga...

(C. Sacleux, 1941, p. 756)

East Bantu

Luba (L33)

-ponda

fijnstampen; piler dans le mortier, réduire en pâte, en purée, triturer, malaxer: se dit de matières humides, fraîches: légumes frais, arachides fraîches...; sens dérivé: frapper...

(E. Van Avermaet, B. Mbuyà, 1954, p. 533)

East Bantu

Yao (P21)

-póóndá

pound anything soft (e.g., leaves); knead; puddle clay by treading (for mortar or plaster).

(A. Ngunga, 2001)

Table 12: *-cop-ʊd- : Proto-Southwest Bantu ‘to pound foodstuffs that do not require force or high intensity’

Southwest Bantu

Luvale (K14)

-sohola

Break up or pound in mortar, as manioc leaves, roots, etc., where comparatively little strength is required

(A.E. Horton, 1953, p. 301)

Southwest Bantu

Lunda (L52)

-sohola

pound in mortar anything soft, such as leaves, beans

(C.M.N. White, 1957, p. 65)

Southwest Bantu

Umbundu (R11)

+sopola

pilar, pisar com pilão no almofariz; pisar folhas de

(G. Le Guennec, J.F. Valente, 1972, p. 487, 490)

Table 13: *NP14-gàdɩ̀ : wide but regional distribution in East Bantu with meaning ‘flour porridge’, irregular reflexes have an even wider distribution

East Bantu

Nyamwezi (F22)

βʊgalɩ/
magalɩ

stiff porridge

(C. Maganga, T.C. Schadeberg, 1992, p. 243)

East Bantu

Swahili (G42)

ugali

(DS. Ngw.) Bouillie épaisse de farine.

(C. Sacleux, 1941, p. 937)

East Bantu

Bemba (M42)

u/bwali

mush, a thick porridge made with meal (flour) and water only. (The staple food of the natives). …

(The White Fathers, 1954, p. 66)

East Bantu

Kaguru (G12)

ngali, wa-

porridge

(J.T. Last, 1886, p. 130)

Southwest Bantu

Kwanyama (R21)

oshingali

porridge-like food prepared from beans & sometimes added to oshifima porridge.

(B.H.C. Turvey, 1977, p. 117)

Table 14: fùfú‘mashed porridge’ versus fúfu‘cassava flour (porridge)’

  • 73  In Cameroon, the term couscous is used as a synonym for fufu, meaning ‘porridge of mashed starch f (...)

Northwest Bantu

Duala (A24)

fùfu

(Ghana) Yamskloss, -brei; boulette, purée d’igname; yam ball, purée

(J. Ittmann, E. Kähler-Meyer, 1976, p. 208)

Northwest Bantu

Eton (A71)

vùvú

[ang? fufu] couscous, fufu; vùvú à mbàz couscous de maïs (fait à partir de grains de maïs séchés; vùvú m̀mùŋ couscous de manioc (le manioc est épluché puis trempé dans l’eau pendant quelques jours et puis écrasé)73

(M. Van de Velde, 2006, p. 429)

West-Coastal Bantu

Sundi (H16b)

fúfu

cassava flour, porridge

(B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010)

Congo Basin

Mongo (C61)

fufú

farine de manioc, de maïs (- ěy’asángú). D’introduction moderne. Dér. Ko. mfumfu.

(G. Hulstaert, 1957, p. 744)

Peripheral Bantu ?

Kare (D301)

fufu

broodwortel-meel dat gemaakt wordt van gedroogde en gestampte manioc-wortel.

(J.J.M. Dijkmans, 1974, p. 188, 237)

Appendix 2: Maps

Map 1: ‘Mashed porridge’ versus ‘flour porridge’

Map 1: ‘Mashed porridge’ versus ‘flour porridge’

Birgit Ricquier

Map 2: ‘To cook’ and ‘to stir porridge’

Map 2: ‘To cook’ and ‘to stir porridge’

Birgit Ricquier

Map 3: ‘Flour’

Map 3: ‘Flour’

Birgit Ricquier

Map 4: ‘Pound sp.’: terms for ‘mashing by pounding’

Map 4: ‘Pound sp.’: terms for ‘mashing by pounding’

Birgit Ricquier

Map 5: ‘Pound sp.’: terms related to the processing of cereals

Map 5: ‘Pound sp.’: terms related to the processing of cereals

Birgit Ricquier

Map 6: *NP3-ìkò ‘stirring stick’

Map 6: *NP3-ìkò ‘stirring stick’

Birgit Ricquier

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Notes

1  See R. Haaland, 2007.

2  I am very grateful to Koen Bostoen, Monique Chastanet, Gérard Chouin, Dora de Lima, Thomas Guindeuil, and Gérard Philippson for commenting on an earlier draft.

3  Although the English term ‘porridge’ may refer to dishes with different ingredients and of various consistencies, it will be used in this paper to refer only to the dense, sticky staple food described in the following paragraphs.

4  M.-J. Tubiana, 2002, p. 234.

5  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

6  P. Whitby, 1973, p. 16.

7  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

8  C.-H. Perrot, 2002, p. 72.

9  D. Westermann, 1905, p. 150; G. Innes, 1967, p. 22; see also F. Osseo-Asare, 2005, p. 28. Also in Nigeria fufu refers to a pounded mash of boiled and sometimes fermented starch ingredients. However, with commercialization of the dish, the name is nowadays also applied to porridge made of packaged flour. The word ‘porridge’, on the other hand, is in Nigeria used rather for a mixture of boiled starch ingredients and palm oil (G. Chouin, pers. comm.). This type of porridge will not be discussed in the present paper.

10  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010; T. Ankei, 1990, p. 86.

11  J. McCann, 2009, p. 137.

12  J. Hostetter, 2011, p. 267; C. Mangeot, 2010, p. 408-409.

13  A. Dalby, 1996, p. 91; T. Braun, 1995, p. 34-35. Note that the cited Roman porridges are slightly different from the flour porridge described in this paper. Polenta would have been made from flour of toasted grains, and puls from a coarser meal; see H. Franconie, 2010, p. 209.

14  This paper contains results from the author’s PhD research funded by the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS and conducted at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, under the supervision of Pierre de Maret and Koen Bostoen. Preliminary results of the linguistic analysis have been published by B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2011.

15  B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2008.

16  B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2008. Examples from J. Hagendorens, 1975, p. 98, and K.E. Laman, 1936, p. 1026.

17  Three months of fieldwork were conducted in the summer of 2010. The first month of fieldwork, I participated in the expedition “Boyekoli Ebale Congo 2010” as a member of the linguistic team. The expedition was organized by the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren), the University of Kisangani, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, and the National Botanical Garden of Belgium. The next two months of fieldwork focused on the collection of linguistic and ethnographic data on culinary traditions in the south of the Republic of Congo and were funded by the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS.

18  The code H10 refers to Guthrie’s classification of the Bantu languages (M. Guthrie, 1948; 1967; 1971). Guthrie’s classification is referential, not genealogical. In this paper, I use the codes from Maho’s update of Guthrie’s classification (J. Maho, 2009).

19  D. Nurse, G. Philippson, 2003, p. 5; K. Bostoen, C. Grégoire, 2007, p. 77.

20  Detailed overviews of the Bantu Expansion from different perspectives are offered by J. Vansina (1984; 1990, p. 47ff; 1995), K. Klieman (2003, p. 43ff), C. Ehret (2001), and P. de Maret, 2013, amongst other authors. The sub-classification of the Bantu languages used in this paper is the one from Y. Bastin et al., 1999, and for the East Bantu subgroups D. Nurse, 1999.

21  See M.K.H. Eggert, 1994-1995; H.-P. Wotzka, 1995; K. Bostoen, 2006.

22  See for instance P. de Maret, 1986; J. Denbow, 1990; R. Lanfranchi, 1991; K. Misago, 1991; P. de Maret, P. Stainier, 1999.

23  See D.W. Phillipson, 2005, p. 249ff.

24  J. Maley, 2001, p. 784; J.R. Watters, 2003, p. 225.

25  Respectively J. Vansina, 1994-1995, p. 15; C. Ehret, 1998, p. 12-14.

26  Reconstructions from J. Maniacky, 2005.

27  Reconstructions made by the author are noted without affixes, except for derivational suffixes, in the case of verbs, and with an indication of the noun class prefix in the case of nouns. Tones are noted when reconstructible.

28  The formal analysis of the reconstructions presented in this paper is found in B. Ricquier, 2012-2013.

29  Reconstructions from K. Bostoen, 2005.

30  Reconstruction of the noun adapted from A. Bulkens, 1999.

31  A. Bulkens, 1998.

32  B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

33  The time and routes of the introduction of bananas and plantains in sub-Saharan Africa is still the subject of discussion; see for instance various contributions in T. Denham et al., 2009.

34  C.M. Mbida et al., 2001.

35  See K. Neumann, E. Hildebrand, 2009, p. 356-359.

36  M. Guthrie, 1970a, p. 286, 298.

37  J. Vansina, 1990, p. 62-64.

38  E. De Langhe et al., 1994-1995, p. 152-158; G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 111.

39  The first consonant of the noun root does not follow regular sound correspondences, which indicates that it must have been borrowed from another Bantu language. However, it is still related to the widespread term reconstructed as *NP9-kímà in Proto-Bantu.

40  See D. Schwartz, 1992; J. Maley, 2001.

41  K. Bostoen, 2006-2007.

42  So did Afro–Asiatic speech communities. J. Vansina, 1994-1995, p. 15, talks about the “grain and herding complex”; C. Ehret, 1998, p. 5-14, about the “Sudanese and Erythraean Agripastoral Traditions”, thus suggesting the origins of this farming system to be situated in Northeast Africa and the Middle Nile Basin. See also C. Dupuy, this volume.

43  Reconstruction adapted from G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 117.

44  See G. Philippson, S. Bahuchet, 1994-1995, p. 106, 110.

45  See C. Ehret, 1998, p. 268-271; J. Vansina, 2004, p. 76, 78.

46  M. Eggert et al., 2006; S. Kahlheber et al., 2009.

47  K. Bostoen, 2006-2007.

48  K. Bostoen, 2007, p. 21.

49  Apart from the details offered in B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, part of the linguistic analysis leading to the results presented in this paragraph has also been published by B. Ricquier, K. Bostoen, 2011.

50  See T. Obenga, 1985; A. Hilton, 1985, p. 5, 78-79; J.K. Thornton, 1998, p. 15-16.

51  J. Vansina, 1995, considers West-Coastal Bantu to be one group. Y. Bastin et al., 1999, p. 128, posit three different groups: Kongo-Kwilu (B40, some of B80, and most of H); Nzebi (B50-60 and part of B70); and Teke (parts of B70-80 and H24).

52  J. McCann, 2009, p. 137.

53  J. Vansina, 1962, p. 387; S. Bahuchet, G. Philippson, 1998, p. 92; J. McCann, 2005, p. 29-30.

54  In contrast to maize, whose grains or ears shipped between colonies can produce new plants, the introduction of cassava was a deliberate action: cassava plants can be grown only from cuttings. S. Bahuchet, G. Philippson, 1998, p. 101.

55  See W.O. Jones, 1959, p. 62; J. Redinha, 1968, p. 96.

56  J. Vansina, 1997, p. 256-258.

57  J. Redinha, 1968, p. 96.

58  On cassava preparations as food supply for caravans, see B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, p. 245-262, 264.

59  A distinction is made between ‘bitter’ and ‘sweet’ varieties of cassava. The first contain toxins that need to be removed by soaking during several days, whereas the second can be eaten raw.

60  W.H. Bentley, 1887, p. 32, 328; R. Butaye, 1909, p. 121-122. Luku and fufu, discussed in the following paragraphs, are but two of the many nouns in Kongo (H10) varieties that may refer to cassava flour porridge. Other nouns include mfùndi, tsíímá, and kitó—examples from, respectively, K.E. Laman, 1936, p. 557; J. De Grauwe, 2009, p. 108; B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

61  J.W. Van Gheel, 1652, p. 72. Collaboration with the KONGOKING project (Ghent University, coordinated by Koen Bostoen) enabled the consultation of scans of the historical Kongo dictionaries cited in this paper.

62  See lexical evidence in B. Ricquier, 2012-2013, p. 215-219.

63  J. Van Wing, C. Penders, 1928, p. 192.

64  Dapper, 1676, in J. Vansina, 1997, p. 256.

65  Anonymous, 1773, p. 303. The dictionary is attributed to J.-J. Descourvières.

66  Y. Nzang-Bie, pers. comm.

67  T. Ankei, 1990, p. 89; B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

68  See B. Ricquier, 2011. Chikwangue is a firm paste of bitter cassava which has been soaked, drained, and either grated, pounded, or kneaded, then wrapped in leaves and further prepared by steaming, boiling, or even fermenting. It may be preserved for a longer period, which makes it an ideal food supply for journeys. B. Ricquier, fieldnotes, 2010.

69  M. Chastanet, 2002.

70  See K. Bostoen, 2009.

71  It is not possible to provide the long list of evidence here. Therefore, only representative examples will be offered for most of the forms analyzed by the author.

72  This language is classified by Y. Bastin et al., 1999, as Northwest Bantu, but belongs according to other authors, for instance K. Klieman, 2003, to the periphery.

73  In Cameroon, the term couscous is used as a synonym for fufu, meaning ‘porridge of mashed starch foods’; see M.D. Delancey et al., 2010, p. 170, 186.

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List of illustrations

Title Map 1: ‘Mashed porridge’ versus ‘flour porridge’
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-1.png
File image/png, 130k
Title Map 2: ‘To cook’ and ‘to stir porridge’
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-2.png
File image/png, 119k
Title Map 3: ‘Flour’
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-3.png
File image/png, 106k
Title Map 4: ‘Pound sp.’: terms for ‘mashing by pounding’
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-4.png
File image/png, 113k
Title Map 5: ‘Pound sp.’: terms related to the processing of cereals
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-5.png
File image/png, 107k
Title Map 6: *NP3-ìkò ‘stirring stick’
Credits Birgit Ricquier
URL http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/docannexe/image/1575/img-6.png
File image/png, 107k
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References

Electronic reference

Birgit Ricquier, « The History of Porridge in Bantuphone Africa, with Words as Main Ingredients », Afriques [Online], 05 | 2014, Online since 11 December 2014, connection on 18 December 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/1575 ; DOI : 10.4000/afriques.1575

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About the author

Birgit Ricquier

Research assistant, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, PhD student, Université Libre de Bruxelles

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