In 2015 she started Basbaas, a company specializing in bottled Somali sauces inspired by her mom’s recipes. Yearning to delve deeper into the little-known foodways of East Africa, she found an eager partner in best-selling cookbook author Julia Turshen. Both believe home kitchens are gateways into cultures, and grandmothers (bibis) hold the keys. We meet many of them in “In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers From the Eight African Countries That Touch the Indian Ocean” (Ten Speed, $35).
Kenyan photographer Khadija M. Farah traveled the backbone of the East African spice trade, from Eritrea to South Africa, shooting landscapes and portraits of the grandmothers, or bibis, in their kitchens. The authors interviewed them, often via Skype. Their responses reveal much about the diversity from one country to the next, as do the recipes — many tinged with colonial influences such as one I tried for Denningvleis (sweet-and-sour braised lamb with tamarind) from South Africa’s Cape May community.