Hoppin' John. Photo: SauceSupreme, Flickr.
When Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in the wake of the Watts riots, he intended for African traditions to pervade every element of the invented harvest celebration -- including the Karamu, the feast served on New Year's Eve. Karenga undoubtedly envisioned fellow black Americans marking the holiday with a spread of West African dishes, including yam porridge, spiced rice and fish stew.
But as the festival entered the mainstream in the early 1980s, an increasing number of celebrants opted to ditch the unfamiliar African foods. Rather than serve up the cuisine of a homeland they never knew, they prepared delicacies associated with the African diaspora: Catfish, collards and macaroni and cheese all showed up on Kwanzaa tables.