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Open Access Turning coo-coo

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Turning coo-coo

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]The pairing of commeal and okra, which pops up everywhere in the Caribbean, nicely captures the amalgam of African and American resources that has produced so much of the region's cultures, and bears witness to the earliness of culinary creolization - on both sides of the Atlantic. Corn(maize) is, of course, native to the New World, and okra (gumbo) to the Old. The Dictionary of Jamaican English includes back-to-back entries on oka and okra - the former from a Yoruba word for corn, though in Jamaica it refers to a cassava mush served with an okra sauce (Cassidy & Le Page 1967:328). And while the Ewe word kukü means "corn dumpling" (Cassidy & Le Page 1967:135), its Caribbean cognates generally signal the presence of okra - as in Bahamian cuckoo soup (Holm 1982: 55). Just to the north in the United States, that classic of southern cuisine, fried okra, is made by coating the pods in cornmeal before dropping them in the bacon drippings. At the southern end of the Caribbean, the Brazilian dish called angu (from Yoruba - see Schneider 1991:14) is made with cornmeal (or cassava-flour); its Saramaka namesake (angu), though made with rice- or banana-flour, is usually served with an okra sauce. And in Barbados, cornmeal and okra comprise the essential ingredients of a national culinary tradition, which we will spell coo-coo.2

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