From Seeds to Sabor! The Historical Recovery of African Agricultural Knowledge Systems through Roças and the Culinary Legacy their Agency Endowed to Colonial Bahia

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From Seeds to Sabor! The Historical Recovery of African Agricultural Knowledge Systems through Roças and the Culinary Legacy their Agency Endowed to Colonial Bahia

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  Historical Recovery of African Agricultural Knowledge Systems through Roças and the Culinary Legacy their Agency Endowed to Colonial Bahia Gabriel Mitchell, Boston University Abstract This paper explores often- overlooked contributions resulting from Africa’s involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, particularly in colonial Bahia. This paper uses cacao production and considers the impact of West African arrival on the colonial tastescape. Through Portuguese dereliction of responsibilities, enslaved Africans, forced to provide sustenance via provision gardens, or roças,  contributed to a new cuisine. Elaborating on Carney, who provides evidence of prior agricultural knowledge systems and the presence of an African indigenous rice variety ( Oryza glaberrima ) in the New World, I argue that the trafficking of Africans to the New World not only transferred their indigenous agricultural knowledge systems, but moreover, Africans adapted this knowledge to their new environment not only to enable, but also to enhance their livelihoods. I then argue that enslaved women in their roles as domestic servants used ingredients from these gardens coupled with their prior culinary knowledge systems to establish the foundation for Northeastern Brazilian cuisine. This paper seeks to challenge the widely held notion in academia that enslaved Africans only contributed insignificantly to the colonization of the New World, save for their bulk labor. Enslaved Africans transformed the agricultural landscape of Brazil and other colonies throughout the Americas by adapting their knowledge systems to various novel environments; furthermore, they significantly contributed to the various material cultures of the Americas, particularly in Bahia — an African state, which has recently come to embrace the significance of its historical legacy, most notably through its cuisine. Keywords: Colonial Bahia, Historical Recovery, Food History, Atlantic Africans, Food History
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