Cape Verdean Cuisine
The Essence of Soul Food
Imagine walking into a beautifully decorated home and greeted with hugs, happiness and plenty of laughter. Children playing, teens and tweens huddled around each other, elders laughing and talking, some in American English, others in Kriol, the Cape Verdean Language. Everyone else is doing the same. There’s plenty of wine and beverages for those who do not drink alcohol. The table is filling fast with a variety of different traditional holiday foods. Then the moment arrives when someone asks, “ Are we ready to have Cachupa?” “Yes!”
I jumped up and made sure I was the second person in line to have my bowl filled with this hearty stew made with samp, beans, greens, corned beef, love and much more. I was hooked at the first bite. My love deepened as I went on to the second bite and then eventually my second bowl. I would’ve went back for a third when I reminded myself there was a table full of other foods just waiting to be consumed.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with one of my Cape Verdean groups at their annual Christmas party. Though this was my second holiday event with them, the first event tells an even deeper story.
I entered into a room only having previously met a handful of people at a meeting I attended a couple months prior. Several times throughout the evening, people came in and greeted me with a big hug, “Hi cousin,” while introducing themselves. I spent approximately 2 hours staring around the room in a state of awe-filled shock. This was the first time in my entire life, I sat in a room where 95% of the people looked like me.
As I submerge myself more into the Cape Verdean Community, I find myself obsessed with the food, the culture and the people. My body sways naturally to the music as if I’ve known the rhythms my whole life. I’ve set my intention to learn Kriol so that I can communicate with my elders and anyone else who wants to talk in our ancestral language. What’s especially soul-filling to me is, the part of me that felt missing my entire life, has been filled by a belonging to a community I just learned I am a part.
Soul Food is more than just a dish, it’s an experience. Cachupa contains a variety of ingredients, depending on who makes the dish. It also comes with love, a history, and a community of people who love life. Regardless of what’s going on in life, everything stops in the moment of that first bite.