When it comes to kitchen tools for African-Americans, the black household is often a bit of a mystery.
And it’s not just because they have very little knowledge of the tools and how they work, but because they are often not in the habit of wearing them.
A study by the Smithsonian African American Museum in Washington, D.C., found that just 13 percent of African Americans have “African kitchen tools” at home.
Of those, only 4 percent of them are in use in their homes.
But it’s because African Americans tend to be less skilled in using them than their white counterparts.
“There’s a huge gap between what African-American people know about African-African tools and what they can do with them,” says Dr. Yvonne Nelles, director of the Smithsonian’s African American Institute.
“And the fact that they’re not being taught how to use them is actually a big barrier.”
What’s more, the lack of training is a significant barrier to the development of the African-themed kitchen tools of the future.
“African American cooks in the U.S. use tools for a variety of reasons, and the tools that are in the African kitchens are not part of their repertoires,” says Nellos.
“The tools that African-Hispanic cooks are using are their own tools, and they have to work through their own processes and techniques to learn how to do the things that they do.”
“African-American cooks in our communities are often just not able to use the tools they’re familiar with, like, for instance, cooking pans or pans for making salads,” says Nina E. Smith, a food studies professor at Cornell University who has researched how African Americans use food tools.
“But African-Asian cooks are much more likely to have a kitchen of their own.
They may have their own kitchen in their neighborhood or a communal kitchen that they use as part of a larger project.””
For me, the tools have always been the most exciting part of my cooking because they’ve always been an instrument that I’ve never used before,” says Shana M. Smith.
“I think that the tools are like a treasure to be shared with the community.”
Smith is a kitchen designer at her local African American Community Center, and she has noticed that the more African-inspired kitchen tools they have, the more often she gets questions about how to properly use them.
She says she’s always wanted to bring her own African-style kitchen tools to the table for cooking, but didn’t have the time or resources.
“So, I started to learn from the African cookbooks and from cooking classes,” she says.
Smith and her colleagues, along with the Smithsonian, are working to change that.
The Smithsonian’s kitchen tool initiative, which aims to educate African Americans about the benefits of African-centered cooking, has been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to bring together a diverse group of experts and educators from around the country to study the history and culture of African cooking.
This summer, the team of African American scholars and researchers will be in Atlanta for the second year in a row to participate in the national workshop on African cooking tools.
“We are really looking to develop an African-centric kitchen that reflects the history of African people,” says Smith.
To find out more about the African American Kitchen Tool initiative, visit: http://www.sihamlafoods.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SICAM-African-Cooking-Tools-Project-2017-06.pdf