High on the Hog by Jessica B. Harris traces the African-American experience and the influence of African foods and African-American cooking on the American cuisine. I really enjoyed this fascinating look at the history of the African Diaspora and the origins of some very familiar foods.
I was thinking about this today when I was in the garden picking some okra. According to Harris, the word okra is from the Igbo language of Nigeria -- where the mucilaginous pods are called okuru. It was grown in the US by the early 1700s and was certainly on the menu at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
I made a simple gumbo with my okra, sauteeing the sliced pods in bacon grease with chopped onion, garlic, and green peppers, then adding chopped tomatoes.
Served over rice, it's gumbo -- a dish with definite African antecedents. Again according to Harris, the word gumbo come from the Bantu languages where the pods are called ochingombo or guingombo.
History in a bowl!