Post by Alison Hein.
Now that we’ve gotten all the Super Bowl hoopla out of our systems, it’s time to focus on more important things – like African American History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson initiated focus on African American history back in 1926 when he decreed that the second week in February become “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose the month of February, when both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass celebrated their birthdays.
It wasn’t until 1976 that the US government officially expanded Woodson’s initiative to become “Black History Month.” President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Our country’s food history, too, owes a lot to our African American forbears. Popular soul food, like collard greens, johnnycakes and chitlins, stems from African roots. Benne (the Bantu word for sesame) was brought from Africa to this country during the slave trade era. Benne Wafers are still very popular in the south, and are considered a specialty of Charleston, South Carolina.
Sometime this month, I urge you to make these nutty little wafers. Pack some up and head out to a local park or museum for an event honoring African Americans. Here are some links to get you started:
½ cup benne (sesame) seeds
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°. To toast seeds, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring once or twice, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Mix in egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour and baking powder to form stiff batter. Drop batter by rounded ½ teaspoons onto prepared sheet, leaving about 1½ inches between wafers. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.
Makes 5½ to 6 dozen wafers.