Kenyan Flavors Teach Culture, Cuisine

Service Center Tries To Spice Up Its Image

June 26, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

NEW WINDSOR — Curry, coriander, cardamom and a -- of honey flavored a buffet out of Africa here Saturday.

With pinches of spices unfamiliar to many American palates, the New Windsor Service Center's chefs created Kenyan cuisine to kick off the first of its monthly International Fare Days.

"We came up with the idea to attract people to our International Gift Shop as well as the center," said Helen L. Crouse, manager of the shop. "We wanted them to make a day of it, dining, shopping and experiencing different cultures."

A thick, tan sauce made with peanutbutter, tomato and onion added a piquant flavor to the most recognizable entree: roast chicken. Peanuts and sweet potatoes made the breads orange and brown.

The staff labeled the more exotic entrees likegbegiri soup, bobotee and sobji bharji vegetables, but left visitorsto guess at the ingredients. When Jeanette Gannon, food service director, appeared in the dining room, she was bombarded with questions and requests for recipes.

Many diners topped the bobotee, a multicolored fruit and ground beef mixture with shredded coconut and fresh banana.

"What makes the foods different for American diners are combinations we don't normally put together and spices which are foreignto us," she said. "We found all the ingredients we needed locally, though."

Locating tahini, a sesame seed paste used for salad dressing, proved the greatest challenge for the manager of Giant Foods in Westminster.

"He knew it was in the store, but he wasn't sure where," said Gannon. "We finally found it near the Mexican foods."

Manyswirled sips of a cloudy iced tea around their mouths, trying to identify its sweet taste. Spiking the tea with a combination of honey and coriander was the suggestion of a volunteer at the center, who had recently visited the East African country.

"The cooks here were just as imaginative with the spices as native Kenyans," said Dorothy Kovatch of Frederick, who lived in Nairobi, Kenya, about four years.

The cooks chopped, diced and marinated fresh vegetables and tried tofollow African methods.

Curry colored many of the dishes from pink to deep red. Green spinach leaves speckled the wild rice. A light orange custard, made from pumpkins, was a dessert favorite.

Gannon said her crew strove for authenticity, although they didn't use traditional gourds for stirring and balked at killing their own chickens.

"None of the preparations were hard," said cook Tina Forney. "It mostly involved stir-frying and seasoning."

All the recipes came from the "New Internationalist Food Book," available soon in the center's gift shop for about $12.

"I tasted a little bit of everything,"said M. India Jones of Westminster. "I travel frequently and like totry different foods."

Jones said she is looking forward to the next International Fare Day on July 27, when tastes and scents of Indiawill be featured.

To further the safari theme, the Rev. John B. Grimley, who spent 22 years as a missionary in Nigeria, painted a floor-to-ceiling African elephant and guests dined to taped sounds of African singers.

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