In 1985 (the year my daughter Rachel was born), I bought a book called The Griots' Cookbook: Rare and Well-Done (publisher C. H. Fairfax Company, Columbia Md.). I've been cooking from this book for so long now
the pages are all frayed and dog-earred. The recipes here are truly tried and tested -- comfort food at its best. But first...a bit of info. Let's start with just what exactly is a Griot. PBS.org in it's study on blues in America defines a Griot (pronounced 'GREE oh') as a West African performer who perpetuates the oral traditions of a family, village, or leader by singing histories and tales. Griots typically perform alone, accompanying themselves on a stringed instrument, and are considered by many musicologists a critical African root of the solo acoustic blues that developed among African American communities during the early 20th century. En.wikipedia.org calls them wordsmiths who use poetry, proverbs, and rhythm to teach villagers about their history. Their home is the territory of the Mande peoples, i.e. the states of Mali, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal, where their tradition is alive to this day. "Griot" is the French term for this class of musicians; the local terms are jeli in northern Mande areas and jali in southern Mande domains. In the Bambara and Malinke
languages "djeli" means "griot" and also "blood". In their inherited duty and vocation, the djeli are the life-blood of Malian society. As oral historians, storytellers, singers and musicians, they keep the past in living contact with the present by acting as ajudicators, arbitrators, even match-makers. Both men and women practice this vocation. As you can guess, this is a very special cookbook and well-beloved in my house. This book is now rare and extremely difficult to find. It was compiled by American Griots Alice McGill, Mary Carter Washington and Elmira M.
Washington, all well-known and familiar local names if you were born and bred in Baltimore. The book was created as a fund-raiser for the local jazz station, WEAA broadcasting from the campus of Morgan State University which is where I work. With that background, I shall share the very first recipe that appears in the book...don't be afraid to read it through. I promise you, it's worth it!