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Spicy Spinach Stew, with Love from Ghana

The New York Times   in  · ·
February 26, 2015

I thought I would talk with Samuel Obeng about the smoky spinach stew the chefs serve at his Bronx restaurant, Papaye, but he steered the conversation toward weightier matters. “I want to set up an African cultural center here in the Bronx,” he told me. “In Manhattan, they have a museum about sex! So why can’t I have an African museum? We can teach our kids how people back in Ghana dress, how they talk. We can teach our kids how to drum.”

Obeng, who is 49, came to New York 22 years ago, settling, like most of the city’s 27,000 Ghanaians, within bunting distance of Yankee Stadium. A serial entrepreneur, he filled the conversation with the words “innovation” and “efficiency,” intoning them like blessings. With the authority of someone who has already made it, he noted the need for his community to commit itself to its American present, not its Ghanaian past. And yet he has a preservationist’s instinct. There is his dream of a museum, of course, as well as the restaurant that he bought for the ways it connects him, and his friends, to Africa…

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