Africa is a treasure trove of traditional dishes authentically made from plant-based goodness.
Hummus, injera and tahini, like many other African dishes, have erupted in popularity owing to the rise of veganism. According to several historical sources, the earliest mention of hummus made using tahini dates back to Egypt in the 13th century, although it is popular in Greek cuisine too. So, unbeknownst to the millennial vegan, their overpriced “Earth-Bowl” is actually comprised of food items that are dietary staples, an have deep roots in various African countries.
And, with throngs of celebrities fiercely promoting the diet, it almost seems as if Hollywood invented veganism, however a quick stroll through history will reveal that it has had an unequivocal presence throughout Africa and Asia from as early as 8th century BC.
The origins of veganism
Plant-based diets, and the philosophy they’re founded on, have been in existence long before the term ‘vegan’ was ever coined (or hashtagged on Insta).
In the East, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains promoted plant based diets for reasons that extended beyond health and necessity, they encompassed ethics too. Parsvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankara (saviour and spiritual teacher) of Jainism in eighth-century BC advocated for, and preached to followers about Ahimsa, the concept of nonviolence to all living forms. The monks abiding by this lifestyle walk carefully using a brush to sweep the floor in front of them to avoid accidentally crushing insects. They can also be observed wearing muslin cloths over their mouths to avoid accidentally ingesting flying insects.
Another noteworthy leader who cultivated the belief that it was sinful to kill animals was Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten (1380–1362 BC). He banned animal sacrifice and instituted a religion based on compassion and monotheism.
But when did the term “veganism” come about?
In August 1944 members of the Vegetarian Society, a group founded in Britain in the nineteenth century by people who actively promoted and followed meat-free diets, asked that a section of its newsletter be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism. By November, a quarterly newsletter was dedicated to this purpose. It was named “The Vegan News”. Donald Watson, secretary of one of the branches, chose the word vegan himself, based on "the first three and last two letters of 'vegetarian'" because it marked, in Watson's words, "the beginning and end of vegetarian". The new Vegan Society held its first meeting in early November. Today, World Vegan Day is held annually on November 1 to mark the founding of the Society.
Since then veganism has experienced a major boom with celebrities and “woke” millennials adopting the diet, and in some instances the lifestyle too.
The reason being? Social media.
Apps and websites like Instagram and Twitter break down the barrier between plebs and celebs - and, in an instant, we can see what Beyonce had for dinner or recreate Jamie Oliver’s recipe for lentil tabbouleh.
According to Google trends, searches for “veganism” have been rising steadily in a similar course to Instagram since 2012 (the year the app took off). With over 800 million users to date, it’s possible that it could be responsible for veganism's surge in popularity.
Instagram has an incredibly active vegan community who post visually stunning pictures of fresh, healthy and vibrant meals - with recipes often attached. Whether you're vegan or not, pictures speak to individuals in a manner they can easily digest and relate to. The option to add captions also enables Instagrammers to share nuggets of information regarding the benefits of veganism on not only one’s health, but that of animals and the environment too.
Celebrate veganism the way Africa would with this hearty vegan recipe:
Injera from Ethiopia
Ethiopian cuisine is very vegan-friendly due to strict fasting periods imposed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Thus, during fasting they are not allowed to consume any animal products. Their meals mainly comprise of vegetables, legumes, and spices during these periods. Injera is a staple flat bread used in place of plates or utensils in Ethiopian cuisine. Stews (called wat) are spooned on top and pieces from injera are used to scoop up the food.
1 cup corn flour
1/2 cup sorghum or whole wheat
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
4 cups all purpose flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar
4 cups warm water
Combine corn flour , sorghum or whole wheat , sugar yeast and water , mix and let it rise for about an hour. In Large bowl combine flour , salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the starter mixture to the flour, thoroughly mix and start adding water a little at a time until water has been completely used up, thoroughly miss to eliminate any lumps. You may use the blender to aid in the process. Let it rise for about 2 hours. Heat up a skillet, crepe pan, or non-stick fry pan preferably one with a matching lid. Heat the skillet on medium high heat, and then when ready to cook pour a ladleful (about ¾ cup or more) of the injera batter on to the pan spread from the center in a circular motion. About the size of a dinner plate. You may cover if you have a matching lid, covering shortens