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Okra, Beans, and Leafy Greens: The African-American Foodways Festival

July 26, 2006

african-american-food.jpgPhilipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., is teaming up with nearby Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., to host a program on the origins of barbecue, deep-fat frying, gumbo, and other food techniques that came to these shores courtesy of African-Americans.

“Okra, Beans, and Leafy Greens: The African-American Foodways Festival,” a brand-new event being held Sunday, July 30, 2006, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, will immerse visitors in the past and present of African-American cuisine, examining the major influence it had on colonial cooking and continues to have on contemporary American menus.

The food-centric event features hands-on activities for all ages and cooking throughout the day. Besides cooking demonstrations and a variety of African, West Indian, and African-American foods for sale at Philipsburg, there will be hands-on activities for children and adults. Plus, the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble, a forty-member troupe that includes stilt walkers and acrobats, will perform.

Activities at Stone Barns will include an illustrated talk on the roots of flavor in African-American cooking by noted cookbook author and culinary historian Dr. Jessica Harris. She is a professor at Queens College who has devoted her career to cuisine, writing on foods from around the world, often focusing on African and Caribbean flavors. Dr. Harris, who will be autographing cookbooks at Philipsburg Manor, is the author of The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking and Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking. She has also contributed to numerous other books as well as written articles for Food & Wine and The New Yorker among others. She has also appeared on numerous televisions programs, including Good Morning America and The Today Show.

Stone Barns will also feature special greenhouse tours focusing on ingredients in African-American cooking, tasting of farm-grown leafy greens, tomatoes, and other products, as well as a screening of “Smokestack Lightning: A Day in the Life of Barbecue,” plus a tasting of homemade barbeque sauce. Children can plant a pot of black-eyed peas to take home. A special reservations-only dinner will take place that evening at Blue Hill, the restaurant at Stone Barns. Seating is limited.

The program at Philipsburg Manor will focus on the history of food in Africa, the West Indies, and the North American colonies; Stone Barns will focus on more contemporary expressions of African-American food.

Thom Thacker, site director of Philipsburg Manor, said, “‘Foodways’ refers to cooking techniques, ingredients, and presentation, but it’s also the distinct flavor created when a particular culture puts its own mark on such a universal need as food.”

Among the sweets and savories being prepared for visitors are Akra (sweet fritters), Kelewele (fried plantain with fresh ginger), Joloff rice (West African rice and chicken cooked in spicy tomato sauce), Red Red (Ghanian bean stew served with fried plantain), Ginger Beer (West African ginger drink), Bissap Rouge (sweet drink from dried hibiscus flower), Aboloo (Ghanian sweet steamed corn pudding), fried chicken, gumbo, cornbread, sweet potato pie, and lemonade.

A free shuttle will run between the two sites, which are a short drive apart, throughout the day. Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 5-18, free for children under five and for members of Historic Hudson Valley and Stone Barns center for Food and Agriculture. For the dinner at Blue Hill, seating is limited to 64 and the cost is $150 per person. Reservations: 914-631-8200 ext. 618. Information: and

Historic Hudson Valley is a network of six historic sites in Sleepy Hollow Country and the Great Estates region; Washington Irving’s Sunnyside; Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, a historic site of the National Trust; Philipsburg Manor; the Union Church of Pocantico Hills; Van Cortlandt Manor; and Montgomery Place Historic Estate.

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a non-profit farm, educational center, and restaurant in the heart of Westchester County. Its mission is to demonstrate, teach, and promote sustainable, community-based food production.


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