“Bress ‘n’ Nyam” is Gullah-Geechee for “bless and eat.” That phrase suits this engaging book about the cuisine of the descendants of enslaved West and Central Africans who, because of isolation on coastal plantations and nearby islands, preserved many traditions and developed a distinct culture.
Matthew Raiford is a graduate of the CIA and also the descendant of six generations of Gullah-Geechee people. Drawn back to the farm that his ancestors had tended since just after the Civil War, he has immersed himself in their culture and insights as both a farmer and a cook. Here he presents food made from turnip greens, sweet potatoes, and peanuts (he calls them “goobers,” from the Gullah word “guba,” which in turn comes from “nguba” in the Kimbundu language of Western Angola.) He shares the keys to an oyster roast and to smoking a whole Ossabaw Island hog
But just as the cooking of his ancestors evolved, Raiford’s cooking incorporates elements of his formal training and time spent living elsewhere. He employs vegetables grown in the rich coastal soil in a galette. He connects the benne seeds brought from Africa to a za’atar spice rub for a roasted chicken. And sweet Georgia stone fruits—peaches are not the only treasure—make their way into a gelato.
Evocatively written as well.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.