Afro-Caribbean – meet Ayaba the vegan chef

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Ayaba Galbas, well known in the French-speaking Afro-Caribbean world and even beyond, looks back with us on her journey.
As a self-taught vegan chef and holistic counsellor, she embodies the indestructible link between Africa and the Caribbean.

The year 2020 has been a year of change for many people. As in all circumstances, it is necessary to adapt. The transition from one year to the next is often the integration of new lifestyle habits.

What about having a look at your food-life-balance in 2021?

So, in this Special Edition of AMANIE Magazine, we invite you to (re)get to know Ayaba. She brings life and meaning to plates with her vegetal based cuisine and pieces of advice.
You will undoubtedly be inspired, motivated and even encouraged in the changes you wish to make.

Ayaba Galbas, a self-taught vegan chef and holistic counsellor, describes herself mainly as an “African from the Caribbean”.
Her passions: Afro-Caribbean cuisines, traditional herbal therapies and ancestral permaculture.
The path from world-traveler to world-cooker is obvious. In 2015, she turned it into reality by creating the “Ndolo Touch” concept. It is an Afro-vegetal based healthy and innovative cuisine.
Three years later, her 1st E-book On mange Afrique – Vegan et sans gluten has been published by Afro Cooking Editions.
Since January 2020, Ayaba has been offering her “Ndolo Box”: the 1st Gourmet Box of ready-to-use 100% Afro vegetal and gluten-free preparations, made in France. This innovation is a yummy alternative suitable for everyone.
Ayaba regularly offers digital vegan cooking workshops and holistic coaching.
She also assists associations and companies in diversifying their range of services.

How have you started eating and cooking vegan?

Ayaba: I started about 6 years ago and then, I have been going on step by step. As a farmer’s granddaughter, working the land has been part of my culture. It is moreover by starting a “Creole garden” with my mother, a garden based on Afro-Caribbean permaculture, that I earned more awareness about it. Permaculture is sustainable and leaves room for medicinal plants.
In my daily life, it has all started by growing aromatic plants, seeds, consuming more plant-based beverages.
From there on I have been rethinking my diet, reducing and removing certain foods and products.

What about your Africa-Caribbean love? How has it been developing?

Ayaba: I am native from the island of Marie-Galante, in the archipelago of Guadeloupe. We –people from this island– are particularly bound to our identity. Certainly it has influenced me in accepting and integrating my African roots.
Then as a curious person and a travel lover, I have been deepening my knowledge by visiting several countries of the mother continent.

What travelling to Africa brings to your vision of Afro-Caribbean cuisine?

Ayaba: By observing various dishes, I have noticed that cooking allows us to draw the path of our roots and therefore find ourselves. You can see it in dishes preparation and cooking methods, with the ingredients that people use and how they are combined.
No matter where I go to in Africa, I always find something in common with the Caribbean culinary heritage.

Would you mind sharing a few examples?

Ayaba: My last trip to date was in March 2020, in Ethiopia. Although it was in East Africa, I found synergies in the way they spice the food. Obviously it has something to do with the Indian influences that happened in East Africa as much as in the Caribbean.

In Cameroon, I noticed the preparation and incorporation of legumes in many dishes such as koki – a salty dish steamed in banana leaves. It is also the case in the famous haricot sauté servi avec la bouillie de maïs.

It is a sautéed beans dish served with maize porridge.

credit: Creative Common

Finally, in the Dahomey region (Togo, Benin, Nigeria — West Africa), preparation and cooking techniques are often those also used in traditional Caribbean cuisine.

Considering your knowledge and experience, how do you perceive Afro-Caribbean cuisines?

Ayaba: To my great regret, there is still a lack of consideration for our cuisines. They are not considered as an art. However, each technique and method comes from research and ancestral knowledge. Let take the example of women who pound together in a single mortar, it has to be very precise and synchronised. And let nor forget the physical strength it demands.

Finally, what would you recommend to those thinking of adopting a vegan lifestyle?

Ayaba: First, it is essential to listen to yourself, to take into consideration your body and your needs. Then, African and Caribbean ingredients usually contain diverse important vitamins and nutrients. African descents often have specific deficiencies, such as vitamin D or iron deficiency. Solutions can be found through alimentation. For instance, the fonio which is part of several West African festive dishes, is rich in magnesium, calcium or zinc. We can also mention the moringa, which also has hypotensive and anti-diabetic properties or baobab pulp. These are two superfoods that I recommend to people prone to anaemia, as a complement to vitamin B12.

Let not forget to balance more the regular diet: consuming more natural products versus reducing others (e.g. industrial foods, dairy products, meat, etc.).
This transition period is important. Being vegan is a lifestyle.

Actually, this does not mean “eating only bland food” or “dieting all the time”. Vegan dishes have always been part of the daily food routine throughout Africa. It was the case in the past, and it is still valid nowadays.
The arrival of gluten (wheat bread, pizza dough or pasta for example) is very recent in our diets. Roots such as manioc, yam, taro… have been there longer.

My way of seeing veganism is about creating a balance between one’s food diet and cultural heritage, not to forget being respectful towards the nature and all living beings.

So, I would end by saying don’t listen to all the popular beliefs and go your own way!