Eat like King T’challa: Amherst’s Nyanyika Banda publishes Wakanda cookbook

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    Nyanyika Banda with their newly published cookbook.
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    The Official Wakanda Cookbook features “accessible, fun recipes for seasoned chefs and beginners alike” from Subsaharan Africa. 

What do Amherst and Wakanda have in common? Nyanyika Banda, a local writer who was commissioned by Marvel to create a cookbook inspired by the fictional country in East Africa that is home to the superhero Black Panther. Their book, The Official Wakanda Cookbook, features “accessible, fun recipes for seasoned chefs and beginners alike” from sub-Saharan Africa. 

Banda’s dad is from Malawi and they have traveled to Africa a number of times. Banda is also a 20-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry who holds a culinary degree, in addition to a bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin where they studied writing and indigenous foodways. According to Banda’s bio on Amazon, they “have a passion for studying the foodways of the African Diaspora.”  

The cookbook contains 70 recipes, all accompanied by beautiful photographs and step-by-step instructions. “I tried to choose recipes that are healthy and had no processed ingredients,” Banda said. “I tried to portray how Wakandan people might eat by using fresh meats and fresh vegetables.”

They also featured sous vide cooking, a style of cooking things in a tightly sealed bag while it is immersed in water set to a certain temperature. “A few of these recipes use this machine. I chose this because Wakanda is extremely advanced, so using a modern machine portrayed that,” they said.

Banda did have a target audience in mind when writing the book. “It was aimed at the classic Marvel fans,” they said, and noted it “could be considered a coffee table book” due to its beautiful pictures.

“I am very excited to share the food from sub-Saharan Africa with people who aren’t familiar with the foods like goat meat,” they added. Their cookbook also features classic cuisine such as Roasted Chambo, Braised Oxtail and Dumplings, and Glazed Road Runner Wings. Recipes include both street food and entrees, and desserts and drinks. 

Banda signed a contract with their publisher before starting the writing process. “I had to come up with 70 recipes and steps to make the dishes and follow my steps to test out each food and write a story for a lot of them,” they noted, and they only had 12 weeks to do it. “I wish I had more time. It was pretty stressful,” said Banda. But luckily Banda’s successful writing style shines in stressful situations.

Banda had a day job at this time, so they would wake up at 4:30 a.m. most days to write.  “Some writers like to stay up all through the night and type but I prefer to get up early and write,” they said. “My mind’s too foggy at night.” In the process of writing a book like this pictures needed to be taken to capture the deliciousness of the stand-out dishes and catch the readers’ eyes. A separate food stylist was sent a copy of the book. This food stylist in LA then made the foods and photographed them.

Although the book isn’t out yet, “many people have preordered it from all over the world,” said Banda. Best of all, there will be a book signing event at Amherst Books on May 26, where Banda will talk about their book. Refreshments will be served.

For more information or to register for this event, check out its Eventbrite page.