All Episodes

September 30, 2020 32 mins

Host Stephen Satterfield connects with Chef Binta, an ambassador for the ancient grain fonio and self described modern nomadic chef. Her Fulani roots, classical training from the Kenyan Culinary Institute and love for rural life and nature inspire her dishes and pop up “Dine on a Mat” events, resulting in a modern, and environmentally engaged experience. Chef Binta helps us answer: What is Fulani food? 

Learn more about your ad-choices at

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:03):
I'm Chef Binter originally from Sierra Leone, but I'm now
based in Akra, Ghana. I've been here for over nine years.
I'm the founder and executive chef at Fuller Nickeachin Fuller
Nickechen is a additional nomadic prop up restaurants and our
main goal is to promote full and Nikesine but also
puts up the culture. So in a nutshell, what we've

been doing is traveling across Africa, documenting all the full
and stories from different Fullaning communities and hosting pop ups
around it. Inspired by all these different communities across Africa.
Oh good, Welcome back to the point of origin. On

today's episode, we're talking about full Learning foodways and cuisine
with Chef Fatma into the Fula. Fulani or fu Bay
are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahil
and West Africa, Dispersed across the region and inhabiting many countries.
They live mainly in West Africa and the northern parts

of Central Africa, but also in South Sudan and Sudan
and regions near the Red Sea coast. Chef Benta is
an indelible ambassador of Fulani food. Born and raised in Freetown,
Sierra Leon to first generation Sierra Leonian fulanis of Ghanaian descent.

Binta describes herself as a modern nomadic chef and as
you're here in the episode, she's just doing what her
people have done all along. So both my grandparents owned
like a kukui um store actually, and then my mom

also you used to sell like a street food. We
have something clotical life, right, so she would sell that
in our like like our small store. Um. So my
love for its go from there, and I remembered like
I would go to school, come back home and my

job was like the glorified steward for my grandmother. I
was washing pots that are so big I could probably
fit into. So that was my job. So my love
for it started there and studied international relations, left Sierra Leone, traveled,
came back and then I had an AhR moment that

this is what I love. Why not focus? So that's
how my journeys started. And then went to colinary school
in Naiobi, worked in hotels and got bored at some
point because I had this try if when it comes
to like just sharing the food. Also my worries when

it comes to the culture fading a way, people not
understanding the cuisine, and I took a lip of it
to quit my stable, hotel job and full and the
kitchen and Krisin. Through her Dining a Dinner series, Chef
Pinter gives guests traditional nomadic dining experiences highlighting full learning

culture and cuisine. The dinners combine her nomadic Fulani roots
and formal training at the Kenyan Culinary Institute. So that
was it. And most of the Fulling communities like people there.
They were really excited about it because these people have

moved for years. Some of them don't know how the
food tastes like anymore. Um So me bringing all these
ingredients and getting everyone on the mat and them having
to like a experience the food, it was very It
was like a deja vu moment for most people. Shoes
are not allowed and once guests have made their way

to the mat, they are greeted with a welcoming drink
like watermelon and ginger beer. The starter is based on
the theme of the event and explains the context and
history of the dishes ingredients. The main dish, chef Bnter
describes as bold like coat testicles or phonio salad. The
evening ends with traditional tea and an opportunity to ask

questions about the food and traditions of Fulani people. Yeah,
so moving to Guinea, having to be in a village
where there's no electricity, um, very small village and having
to like fetch firewood, gets food from the farm and

prepare it's everything was done from scratch. So that's really
shaped me as a chef in how also I tell
my story because I got to experience all that um
when I was around my teenage years, so that really
influenced me as a chef and my love also for
full and cuisine and preserving it's because that is really

hard to experience now. Most of these villages are kind
of disappearing because most of the young people don't go
back and stay in the villages anymore, and all are
like our elders, grandmothers, grand no just grandparents and general
most of them have had have passed away, so it's

really hard to go back and get um the originality
of fun and the cuisine and the storytelling in general.
Because we were colonized by the British, so it's mostly British,
partly Nigeria. And also because we have. We have like
one of the largest type in Sierra Leone. They are
originally from um Nigeria. They are called the Forbes and

if you look back, they're actually from the yellow bath type.
So there are so many similarity when it comes to
the Nigeria and food like things like something they called
more and more in Nigeria. We also have it. We
call it all in allen So and our food is
very small leafy and it goes with a lot of ice,
with rice, a lot in sill, so a bit of that.

But mostly my focus has been fullany because then I
grew up with in like Sierra Leone dishes and I
have so much love for it. Something I enjoyed um.
I also go back to it sometimes and just take
inspiration and creating things and the beauty of infusing um
full and a cuisine and silen and because it's always

easy for me, because you know Sila, we share borders
and we share also even our cuisine. We we it's
almost the same thing. There's not much difference. It's the same.
Fulani food is mostly prepared using ingredients that are sun
dried and can be preserved for months. The diet is

mainly derived from cattle and includes dairy items like yogurt, milk, butter,
and meat, ground nuts, starches like sorghum, corn and fonio,
a nutritious grain with a nutty taste and a pebble
like texture that's native to Africa round out the diet.
Like the black herdsman or cowboys of the mid nineteenth

century in Texas, the Fulani people are nomadic and raised
cattle primarily for the purposes of business. Most things that
people confuse is that the thing we eat meat a lot.
I will start with that we do it for business
full and is mostly focused on offers, like we eat

offers a lot. So most times if we slaughter, for example,
a cow, who sell everything else and they will save
the offers for the for like for cooking at home.
And sound right also to our our food, our dishes,
our ingredients in general is mostly sound right. And that

is because we are always moving, so that's our way
of preserving our ingredients for the next migration. And we
eat corn a lot. Corn is a huge part of
our diet. Um things like for new is a huge
part of our diet. And then also rice, the local
rice um it's a huge part of our diet. Vegetables

not much because we hardly thinks that are fresh. So
even when it comes to vegetable sound right and things
like oh well, um, even though it's vegetables, we actually
have a dish that's really interesting. Um we sound different
different types of vegetables with vegetables and then cook that
into one part which the other parts in Africa call them,

but we make it one and then um, add salt
and just dried chilies. So have we don't. That's that
we don't exporting so much. So it's mostly sound dried.
That must be a very intensely flavored broth. That sun
drying that sounds good. So when you do the sun drying,

how does it work? You like lay down a mat
or something and then cut the vegetables in half and
then let them stay out in the sun for how long?
So we don't use maths because we believe that the
math is only mens for players or eating in the
evenings with the families. So it's almost like we respect

the math so much. That's why you're not even allowed
to like step foot with like slippers, not allowed to
bring and his shoes or slippers on the maps and
that's something also practice. When I'm most in events, we
have like a corner where everybody will live their shoes.
So when it comes to where sundry are things, we
normally use clay which will mix with the cows punk

mm hmm. And so we designed the space for sun drying,
so patterns really nice lay sticks around. Um create that
space only for sound drying things, or they will build
raxis and sticks. Even the homes because you know our
homes also can be dismantled. It's it's movable. We create
space inside like a pantry which we will hang our

account and then also just keep any other thing that
related to food and cooking. Where does most of the
beef girl that is raised or that that folaney or selling,
Where does most of the girl local to the market,
you know, slaughter and cell and most of the During
this piece thing I was doing, I realized that sometimes

even the cattles the area and it's not it doesn't
belong to them. They do it for like politicians because
they know how to do it. They know how to
handle cattles. So people would decide to do it as
a business and then almost like outsource it to a
fully look fun to handle it for them, and then
they will pay the person. Um, yeah, start the amount

of which m should we add the cattle for them? Wow?
And that's very complex because then you have people who
are in power who are actually encouraging Fulani to raise cattle.
But then the neighbors are taking it out on the Fulani.
But this is what they need to make a living living,
and they are quiet about it because they can't even

comment maybe immediate because right, of course, of course it's
very political. So um, what are you when you're in
the midst of those um negotiations? Um, what are you saying?
To people on either side? It is difficult because one
most of these Fullney people they don't even understand the

local language. And because they don't expect borders. I would say,
we don't we we don't expect borders, so and they
will come and settle. So whenever they has a fight,
the locals will just impose the laws on them. For example,

We're going to find you. If your cattles in, then
we're finding you this and they are forced to just
do it, and sometimes they can be stubborn also they're like, no,
I'm not doing and they will settled there the knowledge
is start, so it's it's very chaotic. I always try
to go there communicate, so I'll talk to them what's
the problem is. They'll tell me fullarney, and then I

will explain to the locals, which are like chiefs and
all that. So it's it's hard. We end up settling
it and then I'll come back to accur focus on
my work and then the next one week or two
weeks they'll call you again for the same issue. So
I'm like, you know what I think, if you people
are working together, you you understand the importance of agriculture,

it will be easy, you know, whens to handing all
this because they would also help in terms of protecting
so if it's hard for them to get like a
green air for the curtles after and then they would
want to move. And one thing I've been also kind
of course going to convince them is that this moving
is very historic. You don't even need to move your cows. Honestly,

when you think about it, you can just create a
ranch and keep them in and feed them. But because
of lack of education also just understanding in generality believe
because it has been for like how many years, they
just move, move when you can actually just be in
one place. It's it's it's time we work smart. That's

one thing I've been trying to, like um, convince them
on it's time it works smart. This moving it's something
that is very historic. You don't have to move anymore
for you to you know, um, feed your your cattle.

The situation depicted by Chef bin To here is a
tense one. Fulani herdsmen are a nomadic group believed to
be the largest of their kind in the world, and
found across West and Central Africa. In search of abundant
grass and water for cattle, herders inevitably will clash with farmers.

These disagreements have turned violent, and armed herdsmen claim to
have been provoked from armed gangs and farming communities who
are trying to steal their cattle. As a warming planet
diminishes grazing lands, Fulani herdsmen have gone further and further south,
and so too has their conflict. And like many violent conflicts,

it is based on the land. But since herders are
selling mostly to local markets, the same communities who are
condemning them are also the ones that are keeping them
in business. Steps to expand and contain grazing areas are
now being taken and with these sometimes deadly conflicts as

the backdrop, chef bent his work as a culinary ambassador.
It's more of the latter and less of the former.
And Fulani fresh milk is termed because some and yogurt
pinda on a popular milk is fermented milk with corn couscous,

which is referred to as latch cheerity or One question
I've I've always wondered is because we talk about like
I know that folks, black folks and really um, the

majority of the world has a hard time processing dairy.
Um do are Foolani people? Like do you all have
different stomachs or something? Or do you not? Do you
not eat dairy? Like is it a different experience? Like
of course I'm kidding, but like what like where does

dairy fit into the to the diet? And um? Is
it's something that just people UM are able to absorb somehow? Listen.
I've also wondered because when I was younger, I could
handle it, but now whenever I cross avocate it story.

But I think it has to do with UM, your
system in general. That's what they know that's what they've
they've eating since they want because even has a baby.
They pastelize the milk. We even pasteurize our own milk.
Who have like this God, We will put the milk
and boil it for some time traditionally and then shake.

They have a way to hold and dance and it's
so semonious. That's not just about specialize in the milk.
They have a particular song they will sing while they're
doing it. They have a particular dance. So it's not
just about the food. It's also about them put in
the culture, having this addition, you know, around it. So

I think it's the system in general. They are used
to eat adaptation. M hm. That's so amazing to me.
I really, I really wish I had a fool on
his stomach as much as much the area as I eat.
I just suffer. You can't, guy, you get used to it. Um,

what about I know that you do a lot of
work with funio. Chef Pierre Tom is a big, big
inspiration a hero for me. Um, Can you talk a
little bit about funnio and and how that plays into
your food as well? Okay, so for me, um, my

love for it goes all the way back during that
Civil war. Because I come from a huge family. I'm
talking over one cousins. I am not joking, so cause
imagine my my mom come comes from a very large family,
my dad and all of these people going into this
small village during the Civil war. You have over three

people in this village and the rice couldn't sustain us.
So it was really hard and the only thing that
could really sustain us during that time was for New.
It's easy to grow and also it doesn't take much time.
It's to twelve weeks you can harvest, so it started
there um and then I also learned a lot of

recipes when I was in the village. So after I
started trending reading about Chef P. L. Cham and seeing
all the interesting things he was doing with for New,
I decided to jump on the the wagon and promote
it because it's something I eat all too growing up

and then also have experienced firsthand how it came, how
healthy it is, how also where it comes to sustainability
in general. So for me it was important to no
like be a voice for it was very important for me.
So it's actually a huge part of my menu. I

always try to share Phni. It's one of the status
we use. It's the most we hardly use rice. Phon
new is the biggest. UM. This is a huge part.
It's in a nut shell. It's a huge part of
my menu. It's actually hard to process. That's why because
mostly like in the village, is because I actually work
with women. We go phonew in the north of Ghana,

and in the beginning there were only doing this it's
traditional way. That's why I actually had to like stepping
in terms of working getting people involved in order to
help with machines and stuff. It's really tedious and at
the end of the day after going through all that process,
sometimes you get so much sand in it um because

also you know, the grains are so tiny, the same
size of a sand, So it's extremely tedious. So UM
the reason why I started this movement when I was
visiting for like inspiration and meeting these full learning women
and some of them were complaining that, um, we're actually
tired of staying home doing the same thing and women

are not allowed also to own landing Ghana especially and
they're not, so they wanted to get involved in this
UM share it like processing Phonio just so they keep
themselves busy. But the men challenge around this round. This
is processing it, and these women do it on a
daily basis because for them in the knot, that's like

huge part of their diet. It. Our food is very
plain and simple. So mostly we use for like enhancing
flavor um flavoring and that we use the African barbsipe
peper Sunday. Our food is very plain and simple, very
plain and simple. Number. I want to ask you about

African cuisine. Broadly speaking, it seems kind of like and
we've kind of been saying. I talked to a Nigerian
chef about this, um like DEBI that African food is
kind of having a moment and that it is kind

of again, broadly speaking, the only cuisine that hasn't been
culturally colonized so big. So I want to know if
you kind of agree that African food is having a moment,
if you see that as um as true um, because

in a global contact or I think one African cuisine
is untouched, it's actually untouched. So I always tell people
that we we are modern a ngelof rice. African cuisines
were more. Actually, I don't consider jelove Frice African In
case you don't know, jollof is the very popular and

very contentious rice from West Africa, popularized in countries like
Nigeria and Gambia and Senegal. And if you'd like to
learn more about it and the beef behind it, you
can listen to Point of Origin episode eleven where Chef
your One Day Komo Lafe breaks it down in detail. Okay,

back to Chef Mente. I just think it's just traveled
all over the place and everybody they have their own version.
So but it's a good thing because I think Joelofe
has brought some attention also to African cuisine. Um, it
has given us platforms also, so I feel like we
have so much. It is rich. We we have no

idea it is. There is so much because one thing also,
I've realized the more I explore, the more curious I
get when it comes to African cuisin, the more adventures
I get to learn a lot. And then I also
tend to like see all these similarities. Um, but I
feel like sometimes it is not represented well in my opinion. UM.

I remember going to an African restaurant in New York
and I was expecting um a particular dish, which I
know how important that dishes to called that culture, that's
part of the world, and it was fused. So I
really feel like we twick it. Sometimes it's it's the

twicky too much because if you're eating French, because in
it's French. In creating Chinese, it is Chinese creating Japanese food,
it is Japanese food. So I really hope that we
can embrace it as it is um all its flavors,
its spiciness, the richness um. And if you want to
make it look pretty, you can make it look pretty,

but the tests should be original. So your view is
that African cuisine is untouched, meaning that the versions that

we're seeing, maybe like in restaurants it's particularly fair in
the US, are such a small part. Yes, it's infinite
everything that, Yeah, this this this interesting thing that we
have it it is amazing. So I always I think
it's important for us to know the base before we

play around with it. It's okay to fuse, it's okay
to recreate, but understand the the ingredients, understand the flavor building,
understand the original dish itself before you you play around
with it. Sometimes it's it's hard because there are days
I just want to stay one of their persons authentic
because if I'm trying to like preserve it. So that's

why I documents a lot. Whenever I go to these
full learning communities, I documents the authentic recipes that I
will learn from the grandmother, different things, and then our
document those. And there are days also I try to
fuse it because sometimes it can only be that appealing
to someone who doesn't know this cuising. It can only

be appealing if you fuse it because and that's why
I believe also m most other full oarning chaps has
A don't really invested their time in it because Um
stephanitiely it can actually be and it takes passion. It
takes passion to really do it. One thing I would

love to share with you also because it's it has
been like a learning process for me. Um. A year
ago I started working with Angio as an ambassador for
peace between the full and eas and the farmers because
they've been fighting a lot and we've been working on
that because we want to get the full and people

involving farming because they don't actually believe when it comes
to like farming in general. Um, their focus more is
on gir and cattle and that has caused a lot
of problems when comes to like the farmers and the headsmen,
because the cattles we go and invade the farm and
destroy the firm, and we we've been trying to like

educate them. Yeah, if they believe in farming, they will
help the farmers protect the farm. But because they don't
believe much on it, that's why they leave the cattles
to go and invade, and cattle invasion has caused a
lot of problems across Africa. So yeah, that's one thing
we've been focusing on. That's that's very sensitive when you

say headsmen right right, especially if there are Foulani farmers
you mean exactly, no, just local farmers. So because they
will come in, so they'll move into a town and
then they will settle and they always try to like
stay a bit outside of the town. It's almost like

they hardly mingle with the locals. So they create their space, um,
stay there, and then the cattles will go and invade
these farms and destroy and that has caused like a
lot of fights. So most times are going into like
negotiate between these uh two. But I got to a
point it was like you go, you negotiate one week

later the calleg again or we're fighting again. You have
to go. So we're thinking, why if these people believe
in farming, if they are actually famine and they know
the value, because you cannot just sustain yourself with just
offers and your small ingredients that you're going behind your backyard.
I think that would help in terms of settling all

these issues across Africa. I always want them to know
that Fuller is a modern headsman, because I feel like
the focus has been only on that. When you say Fuller,
Ne's almost someone is gonna panic in the room. So
I really wanted to change that. And also at least

whoever comes to my match to live as an ambassador
for the full and is that okay? Apart from them
being headsman and all the political thing that is going around,
the name Fulan is, but also the accuisine they have
something That accuisine is rich, you know, their culture is interesting,
stories and everything. Of the many interviews that I've done

for this podcast, Chef Binas is one that really stood
out for me. The nomenclature of culinary ambassador has been
a catch all term for chefs whose ethnic, racial, or
sometimes just appropriative identities are meant to represent as a
proxy for a larger group. As a black man in

the United States, especially one whose professional life is in
predominantly white spaces, I am, whether or not I like it,
a proxy for an entire racial group. And when your
identity is a threat, it raises the stakes of the ambassadorship.
When you are an interpreter and ambassador in quotation marks

and a deadly conflict, as Chef bin Too is, it
makes me think about the people that we've given the
title to in the past and its generosity or in
some cases it's burden culinary ambassador. Growing up in Sierra
Leone's brutal civil war, Chef Binta understands very well food

as a matter of survival and the tension between what
parts of our past are brought into the future. As
she says, for the Fulani people, given their nomadic customs,
a meal is not just food on a plate. I'd

like to thank our guest today, Chefata Binta. You can
learn more about her work and Fulani food ways at
wet Stone Magazine Dot com and if you'd like to
learn more about African food ways, you can check out
episode eleven Niger, which examines Nigerian food and also systems
of Power with Tune day Way on Como La Fa

and Chef Michael Elec Bedett. We'd also like to thank
our incredible podcast producer Selene Glazier. Selene, you are the best.
To our editor and wet Stone partner and director of

video David Alexander in London. I appreciate you, Dave. Thanks
to our wet Stone production intern Quentin le Beau, and
last but not least, my business partner Mel she who
makes all things at wet Stone possible. Thank you Mel.
We'd also like to thank our partners in production at
I Heeart Radio to Gabrielle Collins, our supervising producer and

executive producer Christopher Haciotis. We'll be back next week with
more from the world of food worldwide. H
Advertise With Us

Follow Us On


Stephen Satterfield

Stephen Satterfield

Show Links


Popular Podcasts

Let's Be Clear with Shannen Doherty

Let's Be Clear with Shannen Doherty

Let’s Be Clear… a new podcast from Shannen Doherty. The actress will open up like never before in a live memoir. She will cover everything from her TV and film credits, to her Stage IV cancer battle, friendships, divorces and more. She will share her own personal stories, how she manages the lows all while celebrating the highs, and her hopes and dreams for the future. As Shannen says, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, it’s about how you get back up. So, LET’S BE CLEAR… this is the truth and nothing but. Join Shannen Doherty each week. Let’s Be Clear, an iHeartRadio podcast.

The Dan Bongino Show

The Dan Bongino Show

He’s a former Secret Service Agent, former NYPD officer, and New York Times best-selling author. Join Dan Bongino each weekday as he tackles the hottest political issues, debunking both liberal and Republican establishment rhetoric.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.