Comment Cuisiner Son Mari a L’africaine: How-to Manual or Cautionary Tale ?

4040 words 17 pages

De tous les arts, l'art culinaire est celui qui nourrit le mieux son homme. - Pierre Dac

Calixthe Beyala was born in Cameroon in 1961. She was very disturbed by the extreme poverty of her surroundings. She went to school in Douala, and she excelled in Mathematics. Calixthe Beyala traveled widely in Africa and Europe before settling in Paris, where she now lives with her daughter. Beyala has published prolifically, and her most recent novel, which came out earlier this year, is called La Plantation.

Beyala’s novel Comment cuisiner son mari à l'africaine appeared in the year 2000, published by Albin Michel. It is similar in structure to Laura Esquivel's Like
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When confronted by her angry rival, mademoiselle Bijou, she cooks a bouillie de mil for her to show that she is civilized and in control of the situation.

Later, angered by Bijou's assessment of her relationship with Bolobolo, she also takes revenge on him by putting a laxative in a favorite dish of his. And of course, Aïssatou's prime objective, clinched by her pépé-soupe aux poissons, is to arouse an appetite for passion within Bolobolo. Aïssatou is speaking through her cooking, revealing her desires and fears, using food to express those things which she cannot explicitly state.
In addition to its function as a way to provoke a physical response in the eater, food acts as an important cultural identifier in this novel. Through it we see the transformation of Aïssatou from Parisian, back to African and from white, back to black. In other words, she effectuates a reverse migration, and food and cooking are the vehicle that she uses to bring herself back to her roots. Though this migration is easy to track, as she embraces her mother’s attitudes toward food, cooking and even marriage, it is more difficult to find Aïssatou’s point of departure. In the beginning, Aïssatou’s very racial and ethnic identity is called into question by Beyala’s own publisher’s blurb on the back of the novel itself. It describes her as « une