Licensed cookbooks focused on popular movies and TV series aren’t new. Most of the time the recipes are pretty basic dishes with names rethemed. For example, you might find something like Chewbacca’s chicken kebabs in a Star Wars cookbook. However, in Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook the recipes actually have a story behind them and align with the history and origin of Wakanda. In an interview with Today Food, chef and author Nyanyika Banda explained her inspiration and vision for food culture in Wakanda.
The book is told from the point of view of new character Ndi Chikondi, the Executive Chef at the Royal Palace of Wakanda. The idea that a story is incorporated into the cookbook is so uniquely Wakanda, because we’ve learned over the years that every custom has a beautiful reason behind it.
“The cookbook is a story within itself,” Banda said. “For me, a huge part of it was taking what I already know about African foods, and then really doing a crash course learning about Black Panther and just Marvel comic universe and as a whole.”
The Malawian-American chef had to familiarize herself with Wakanda’s history through the character’s decades long comic book adventures. Luckily, Black Panther has a very loyal, very knowledgeable fan base that she could learn from.
“There’s like such a long lineage of the nation of Wakanda,” Banda said. “There’s this whole backstory of coming up with how we got to that point where Black Panther is being introduced to us, as readers as a fan base,” she explained. “So it was interesting to see that that story already existed through the world of (Black Panther’s) web fan base, so that was pretty cool to discover and learn about those.”
A few of the recipes from the book include Okra Fritters, a classic from royal chef Chikondi’s family food stand; Tamarind Cola, which T’Challa and Shuri drank as kids during their movie nights and Sweet And Spicy Oxtail With Cassava Dumplings, which is inspired by royal chef Chikondi’s trip to the Caribbean. The stories behind these dishes not only speak to Wakandan life, but more importantly to the culture of Black families and the huge role food plays.
Banda wanted to make sure she featured recipes from across the Black diaspora, so there are flavors and dishes from Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America.
“The same way that Black Lives Matter speaks to people not just of African descent, Wakanda and the Black Panther speaks to people that way as well,” Banda explained. “Even though Wakanda is a very specific region on the continent of Africa, I still kept in mind all of those people that are descendants of Africa and are a part of the African diaspora.”
Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook is now available.