Reflections on a Vegan Kwanzaa
The Kwanzaa holiday pays homage to African heritage, culture, and tradition. Reflecting on their history, African-Americans recall how their ancestors were torn from their homeland during the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, packed into crude, crowded vessels and shipped to the United States, the Caribbean, and parts of Latin America to work as slaves on plantations. Divorced from their families, their homes, and their traditions, the Africans lost their cultural identity. The traumatic experience also deprived them of their feelings of community and pride.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, noting how African-Americans still struggle to find acceptance within the American melting pot, recognized the need for a holiday that could bring them together to celebrate their heritage. In 1966, he created Kwanzaa, a celebration that encourages reflection, builds pride and joy, and creates a sense of community that honors African-American ancestry.
The celebration and its rituals are designed to fulfill the social and spiritual needs of African-Americans. While still a new tradition, Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili, is spreading to the diaspora of African peoples living in Latin America, the United States, and throughout the world.
While the Kwanzaa celebration, from December 26 to January 1, includes joyful gatherings and some gift-giving, the holiday was conceived to set aside this special time for families and friends to come together and reflect on community, culture, and family.
Curried Pumpkin-Peanut Soup
Makes about 12 cups; 6 servings
Pumpkin is one of many symbolic vegetables featured during the Kwanzaa holiday, though the variety grown in Africa may be more akin to hearty kabocha squash than our familiar thin-fleshed American pumpkin.
2½ to 3 pounds of pie pumpkin, kabocha squash, or butternut squash
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, including leaves, chopped
½ cup water
2½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup unsalted chunky peanut butter
3 to 4 tablespoons organic sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1¾ teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups sweetened or unsweetened soy milk
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 17½ × 12½-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the pumpkin is soft when gently pressed. Let cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, celery, and water in an 8- to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning.
4. Decrease the heat to medium and add the vegetable broth, peanut butter, sugar, lemon juice, curry powder, and salt. Whisk vigorously to incorporate the peanut butter completely.
5. Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and put it in a food processor in batches along with some of the soy milk. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Transfer the pumpkin to the stockpot, add any remaining soy milk, and whisk it into the soup.
6. Warm gently over medium heat. If needed, thin the soup to desired consistency with additional water, soy milk, or vegetable broth and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with green onion if desired.
Vegan for the Holidays: Celebration Feasts for Thanksgiving Through New Year’s Day
by Zel Allen
Book Publishing Company 2012