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Breaking Bread:
Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens

Liz Kugell

Liz Kugell, fifty, moved to the United States from Brazil in the mid-1980s. She lives in Brookline, MA, with her fifteen-year-old son, Alex, who was born here. Liz works as the director of activities at the Coolidge House, a home for the elderly in Brookline.


Xotchil Gaarn, forty-one, is originally from Venezuela and first came to the United States in 1988. She lives in Roslindale, MA, with her husband Christian, originally from Chile, and her three children, Diego, fifteen, Elsa, twelve, and the youngest, Sebastian, who was born here and is now siz.


Ha Hoang, forty-two, left Vietnam in 1983. She lives in the Dorcester area of Boston with her family and works as a paraprofessional at a nearby elementary school. Ha frequently cooks with her sister-in-law, Chee, and Chee's children, who live next door.

Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens

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Through stories of hand-rolled pasta and homemade chutney, local markets and backyard gardens, and wild mushrooms and foraged grape leaves--this book recounts in loving detail the memories, recipes, and culinary traditions of people who have come to the United States from around the world. Chef and teacher Lynne Anderson has gone into immigrant kitchens and discovered the power of food to recall a lost world for those who have left much behind. The enticing, easy-to-prepare recipes feature specialties like Greek dolmades, Filipino adobo, Brazilian peixada, and Sudanese mulukhiyah. Together with Robin Radin's beautiful photographs, these stories and recipes will inspire cooks of all levels to explore new traditions while perhaps rediscovering their own culinary roots. More...

Genevieve Dei and her family

An Excerpt and Recipes:
This Is America?

Genevieve Dei, thirty-five, is originally from Ghana. She came to Boston with her husband and two young daughters in 1999. She works as a nurse's aide and is also attending classes at Quincy College to obtain a bachelor's degree.

Genevieve walks toward the kitchen, tying an apron loosely around her waist and reminding her girls, Abigail, eight, and Barbara, six, to put their coats and backpacks away. Everyone, including Genevieve, has just returned from school. She begins to pull yams, peanut butter, and plantains down from the shelves above the stove as she chats with a friend who has just stopped in. When the phone rings, Genevieve picks up the receiver and hands it to her cousin, Cynthia, in the other room watching TV with the girls, and then turns around to tell me what’s on the menu tonight. It’s nkatekwan, a groundnut stew popular in Ghana, something Genevieve cooks frequently....

...When the cooking begins, a clear division of labor in this tiny kitchen becomes apparent. Genevieve, Margaret, Cynthia, Abigail, and Barbara all take turns performing particular tasks. Abigail begins by cooking the peanut butter slowly on the stove, all of her concentration focused on keeping the mixture from burning as she stirs it gently with a large wooden spoon. Genevieve stands close by, occasionally directing her daughter in their native language, Tre. “This is Abigail’s responsibility,” Genevieve tells me. “She needs to know how to do it right, so it won’t burn.”

When it’s time to prepare the chicken, Margaret rises from her chair in the corner and approaches the counter with a large knife, her printed dress trailing behind her. She calls out in Tre to Abigail, who moves next to her to hold the chicken carcass steady while her grandmother cuts it into pieces. Genevieve explains that it’s important for older children to work closely with an adult female in the family to learn cooking techniques so that they will be prepared to take care of their own families someday. When Margaret has cut a piece of breast from the carcass, she spreads it flat in her hand and holds it out to me ceremoniously. “Always for the husband,” she instructs in a voice that is low and rhythmic. “He bought the meat for you, so you must give this part to him.”

While the soup simmers, Cynthia comes into the kitchen to make the fufu. She stands over the stove kneading the golden dough repeatedly with a flat wooden spatula over the heat until it is a thick, malleable consistency. “Cynthia does the fufu best,” Genevieve says...

...Following the Ghanaian tradition, we eat with our hands, dragging the fufu across the bowl to gather the thick soup. Barbara and Abigail do this expertly, managing to get big handfuls into their mouths and then wiping their bowls clean with the fufu. The soup is delicious; the subtle peanut flavor is perfectly balanced with the acidity from the tomato and the spike of ginger and hot pepper. Lifting their bowls to their faces, the girls manage to get the last precious drops, and then, without being asked, carry everything to the sink, where it’s washed and returned to the cupboard.

Genevieve’s Ghanaian Nkatekwan and Fufu

Groundnut Soup and Plantain Flour Dumplings

In West Africa, fufu was traditionally made by boiling, peeling, and pounding tubers such as yam and cassava or sometimes plantain into a smooth paste with a pestle and a large wooden mortar. The dough was formed into balls and served with stews such as nkatekwan. Fufu can also be prepared more easily using flours derived from yam, cassava, or plantain, which is the way Genevieve prepares fufu in her Boston apartment today. The fufu is used to scoop the pieces of chicken and peanut sauce, making utensils unnecessary.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • One 3- inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 cubes adobo seasoning*
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 cups plus 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 whole chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin removed, and cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) unsalted, all- natural peanut butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 or 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a blender or food processor, puree the onion, ginger, jalapeño, adobo seasoning, and 1/4 cup water. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and onion mixture and marinate overnight.

In a small saucepan, mix the peanut butter and 2 cups of water. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the peanut butter is caramel in color, about 15 minutes. Cool.

In a blender, puree the peanut mixture with the remaining 2 cups of water until smooth. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the marinade (reserving the liquid). Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot until shimmering. Working in batches, add a few pieces of the chicken at a time to the pot and cook them until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add more oil between batches if necessary.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a platter and set aside. Add the tomatoes to the empty pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pureed peanut mixture, the reserved liquid from the marinade, the chicken, and the remaining 2 cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, until the oil begins to separate from the peanut mixture along the edges of the pot, about 1 hour. Skim the oil and season the mixture with salt, pepper, and the lemon juice. Serve with fufu (recipe follows) or rice.

*Found in most markets specializing in Latino and Afro- Caribbean products. For the adobo seasoning, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne can be substituted.

Copyright © 2009 by Lynne Christy Anderson. Reprinted from Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens with permission from University of California Press.


  • 1 1/2 cups plantain, cassava, or yam flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water

In a medium saucepan, combine the flour, salt, and water. (The mixture should be the consistency of thick pea soup.) Over medium- low heat, cook the fufu dough slowly, working it constantly with a wooden spoon by pulling it away from the edges of the pan. Continue until the dough is thick enough to be rolled into balls that hold their shape, about 5 minutes.

Cooling the fufu enough to work it with your hands, shape it into 12 balls by rolling a small handful around on a flat surface that has been moistened to prevent sticking. Serve with the nkatekwan.

*Found in markets specializing in Afro- Caribbean products. Genevieve used Tropiway Plantain Fufu Flour.

Copyright © 2009 by Lynne Christy Anderson. Reprinted from Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens with permission from University of California Press.

Author Photograph of Lynne Christy Anderson About Rose Lynne Christy Anderson

Lynne Christy Anderson (pictured) is an Adjunct Professor of English at Boston College and Bunker Hill Community College. She was a Bread Loaf Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar in nonfiction in 2008. Prior to teaching, she cooked professionally in restaurants.

Robin Radin has exhibited her photographs nationally. In 2003, she was awarded the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant in Photography.

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