Bolobo, Congo: Baptist Mission Press, 1942. First edition. Only edition of this scarce Congolese cookbook, published during Congo’s colonization by Belgium, incidentally occupied by theThird Reich. Original quarter cloth over printed boards; Title and date embossed on front cover and spine; hand-soiling to covers; edgewear and bumping to corners. Textblock slightly loose; some toning and soiling to endpapers; corner of half title torn, not affecting text; internally complete and overall clean. Contains the bookplate of well known food critic Alan Davidson on upper pastedown. Congolese business advertisements interspersed throughout. Collates complete: 248, including 6 plates. OCLC reports only 3 institutionally held copies, with no others currently known on the market. Willet’s foreword acknowledges that “the book is produced by the ladies of the British Women’s War Work, to raise money by its sale for their War Fund.” Indeed, this scarce African community cookbook was produced at a time of global flux; and its recipes reveal Congolese women, both natives and colonizers, utilizing local ingredients and methods as they sought balance among wartime rationing, fundraising, and creating a comforting table at home. “We are at war, which means that we all must do without luxuries, we must reduce the import of food and the export of money….It is more necessary than ever to live on the country, and Mrs. Willet shows us what an infinite variety of products Congo offers, and how we best can use them” (Rychmans).
The result is a well organized cookery compendium, organized into sections by type of recipe and primary ingredient (including bread, cocoa, corn flour, ginger, maize, and peanuts), accompanied by a section featuring Congo Products Only. As the text concludes, Willet provides sections on common Congolese vitamin deficiencies, and the foods that can be used to prevent them, measurement equivalencies, explanations of foods unfamiliar to Congolese and Belgium readers, as well as medicinal treatments for such conditions as jiggers and “creeping disease.”
A rare surviving cookery manual documenting the kitchen as a space for convergence and collaboration among colonizer and colonized women in a time of world conflict. (Item #1968)