COME INTO MY KITCHEN | Kansas City Star, June 9, 2009

Taste of Africa reflects minister’s work


Elaine Brown, who is doing mission work in Ghana, shares a West African recipe during a visit to Shawnee. In the foreground is a solar oven; she plans to take one back to Africa, where she hopes the inexpensive device will save time and resources.

Elaine Brown’s cooking serves a higher cause. Brown, a nondenominational minister, is working in Aflao in the Volta region of Ghana in West Africa. She is there, in part, to help build a home that will provide food, clothing and education for 36 orphaned children.

When Brown is not living in Ghana, she visits the Kansas City area to spend time with her two grown children and seven grandchildren. Brown says even though many Ghanaians are poor and often hungry, they are generous people who share what little they have. Brown looks forward to returning to Africa in about a month.

Residence: Shawnee and Ghana

Occupation: Founder and director of a nonprofit organization that helps provide essentials for the people of Ghana

Special cooking interest: African food

Aside from building a home to feed and care for orphans, what other efforts do you support in Africa? We’ve recently partnered with Perpetual Prosperity Pumps Foundation, which brings technology and training to the poorest farmers and villages in Ghana. This organization helps villages dig wells, build irrigation systems and provides training so people can plant seeds, raise livestock and begin to make a sustainable income. The average family in Ghana makes less than $2 a day.

Upon your return to the United States from Africa, what do you notice most about the way we eat in America? The people of Africa are grateful for everything they have. And, if anything, it reaffirms how very wasteful we can be as Americans. I have an elementary teaching degree, and I had been doing some substitute teaching while I’ve been back. We, as Americans, do not really appreciate the food we have. People who live in Ghana wouldn’t believe the amount of food we throw away in schools. Even though most Ghanaians don’t have a lot of food, sharing what they have is always a part of their hospitality.

What are you doing with a solar cooker? I am bringing one back to Africa with me. It is basically a cardboard box that has a reflective material like tin foil inside and uses the energy of the sun to cook food. It is like a slow cooker that uses solar energy. A solar cooker only costs $5 and can be used for years. These are important, too, not just because they heat food using solar energy, but because women won’t have to chop down precious trees or use charcoal briquettes and tend a fire all day long. A solar cooker does require a different way of cooking, but foods like Jollof Rice can easily be made in a solar cooker.

Is Jollof Rice a food staple in Ghana? Jollof Rice is popular in most of West Africa. It’s a rice dish, usually with some protein or fish, and I’ve heard that it is believed to be the origin of Cajun jambalaya. It is eaten for both day-to-day meals, as well as special celebrations such as weddings. This is my Americanized version of the dish, but when villagers in Ghana make it for me, they will dish out my portion, then make it spicier with chili pepper for themselves.

For more information on Elaine Brown’s work in Africa, visit www.fosteringhope Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer in Leawood who writes a syndicated home column. E-mail her at to nominate a cook.

Joll of Rice

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces 1
  • 5 cups chicken stock or water
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can tomatoes, diced, or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, cleaned, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cleaned
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper