Kush

Duration: 5 minutes for prep, 20 minutes for cooking
Recommended Ages: 5-12 with adult supervision, 13+ with minimal to no adult supervision
Serving Size: ¾ cup
Description: Taste a dish that has roots in Africa and makes use of ingredients available to people who were enslaved.

Uncovering the foods of people who were enslaved in colonial America requires some detective work. On every historical topic, people of the past wrote down less than we would like.  And, as enslaved women and men had little access to writing and printing materials, they passed down most of their recipes by word of mouth.

Recipes for kush appear around time of the Civil War.  But there’s evidence that the food is much older. In fact, 18th-century West Africans likely brought a form of the word “kush” with them when they were kidnapped from their homeland.  In Senegambia kusha was a grain-based dish. It was the ancestor of the dish enslaved people made with new world ingredients. Today, many people eat a modern form of Kush when they prepare cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving.

In the past, kush made use of ingredients that were available in just about every slave household.  With the addition of onions, pot liquor, and some spices, kush transformed leftover cornbread into an amazing, and flavorful, dish for the table.

Kush with Michael Twitty

This video is provided through the generosity of Townsends.  Check out their historic cooking series on YouTube and their website: townsends.us.


Our recipe is adapted from one shared with us by culinary historian Michael Twitty, when he visited Gunston Hall in 2017.  More information about this recipe and historic African foodways can be found on his site: afroculinara.com.

Adaptation

1 batch cornbread, preferably day-old
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter, oil, or lard
1-2 cups pot liquor or your preference of stock
Salt, crushed red pepper to taste

  1. Crumble your cornbread into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat your skillet over medium-high heat, and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted, add chopped onion to the pan, and saute until softened.
  3. Add in spices to taste and mix well.
  4. Add in your reserved cornbread, and a small amount of the liquid.  Stir frequently, until the mixture is heated through. Add more liquid as necessary, until the mixture thickens.
  5. Taste and add additional spice as desired.
  6. Serve hot.