Sophia Musoki’s food blog is more than just a collection of recipes, it’s a loving, sumptuously photographed tribute to African cuisine. Anna Trapido interviewed the World Gourmand Cookbook Award-winning chef from Uganda.
Sophia Musoki is a 24-year-old Ugandan blogger who creates superstylish, delicious and beautifully photographed food from her home kitchen in Kampala.
Her e-book, Seasonal Cooking, recently won a World Gourmand Cookbook Award and her daily diary, akitcheninuganda.com, was shortlisted for Best Blog 2018 by the über-prestigious American food magazine Saveur.
She says that she began her blog in 2012 because “I found that international blogs often called for ingredients that we don’t find here in Uganda, or that we do find here but only at huge expense.
I wanted a blog that had recipes using locally available ingredients that an average Ugandan knows, likes and can afford.
I wanted a food space that said what we have here is deliciously wonderful. Since then, the aims have grown into a broader exploration of the meaning of African cuisine, but that is where it all started.”
Her fabulous photographs serve a political purpose.
“Right from the start, I felt it was important to show how beautiful our food can be. I wanted to reveal traditional ingredients in a visually appealing way.
It is about recognising and really seeing the exciting ingredients we have all around us. I love a good luwombo with steamed matooke and yams.
I adore smoked fish in groundnut paste, obundu, akatogo, malakwang, obushera and so much more.
These foods are delicious and beautiful, and they deserve local and worldwide exposure.
“To me, the photos are as important as the text. I want the photos to help me to convey the tastes and emotions that I am having while cooking and eating this food. I try to draw the reader into all that and I want them to imagine themselves being here with me.
“The truth is that African food is not innately harder to photograph as compared with other cuisines, but to date time and resources have not been devoted to figuring out ways to photograph its essence.
I recently had a conversation on Instagram with my followers asking them whether they find African food visually appealing and most said that they do not.
So I am on a mission to prove to them and to everyone else that it can and should be [visually appealing].”
Everything Musoki does reflects her respect for heritage ingredients and recipes, but she makes the point that: “Conservation of great ancient tastes is not about stifling progress. I like to experiment with ingredients until I get the desired outcome.
That is what this blog is all about, to inspire readers to get out of their comfort zone and be creative.
A kitchen in Uganda is a space to chronicle and highlight local produce, especially indigenous harvest, by turning it into scrumptious, enjoyable meals with a modern twist.”
Her modern approach has not been without its critics.
“Sometimes I deal with resistance, but if my posting a modification of a coveted traditional dish causes a lot of criticism and eventually a conversation about the said dish, then I am not losing anything.
The goal is to spark interest and conversations about our food history, what is affecting it and what is not doing so,” she says.
She feels that in so doing she is part of a broader new African cuisine movement that is “made up of chefs and cooks exploring and reconfiguring traditional African tastes.
“For a long time, our story has been painted one way and now thanks to technology and globalisation many passionate Africans get to rewrite that narrative and paint the continent according to what they dream it to be.”