Eugenie Kipoy was born and raised in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the rest of her family still lives. Food preparation has been a passion for Eugenie since she was a very small child. She remembers being at her mother’s side throughout her growing up years, watching and learning from her how to cook.

She is the third oldest in a family of seven siblings – six girls and one boy. The other children were assigned other household tasks, such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry. But her responsibility was always cooking. And Eugenie liked it that way.

Eventually, Eugenie left DR Congo. She passed through Angola, and then spent some time in Brazil, where she added cake baking to her food preparation skills. An elderly woman in Brazil was her teacher, and they are still in touch.

In February 2019 Eugenie moved to Maine after hearing that a community would welcome her, and that she would find opportunities to learn English, which she did not speak at the time. Since her arrival, she has attended classes at In Her Presence and Portland Adult Education, and has made good progress

Food brought Eugenie and “Maman Claudette” (Ndayininahaze) of In Her Presence together at an event held at University of Southern Maine. Eugenie recounted that Maman Claudette loved the African fish and haricots she had prepared, and over conversation about cooking methods, told her about English classes, which Eugenie started right away. Unfortunately, eventually Eugenie’s work schedule at Barber Foods interfered with the classes, but she remains an enthusiastic part of In Her Presence as a cook at celebrations.

Eugenie hopes to open her own restaurant one day. The restaurant would feature African food, alongside Italian, Brazilian, and American dishes. She said she acquired a taste for food from tribes other than her own, while growing up in the culinary mecca that is Kinshasa, because her father liked taking the family out to different restaurants. She also learned to love Italian food, which she still adores. At the moment, Eugenie’s lucky family is the primary beneficiary of her passion for collecting and trying new recipes that she learns from sources such as YouTube videos. But if her plans come together, more Mainers will have a chance to taste her cooking.

Ngombe ya Sauce • Beef with sauce

Beef, cubed
Onions, sliced
Green peppers, sliced
Celery, chopped

Olive oil
Tomatoes, chopped
Bouillon cube. (Eugenie uses Jumbo bouillon, which can be found in any African market)

Cut meat into medium-size cubes, as if for a stew, and dry
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat
Add the meat and brown well on all sides.
Add the onions to the meat and cook five minutes.
Add the celery and the garlic, and cook another five minutes.
Add tomato, green pepper, nutmeg, and bouillon.
Allow to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Serve with fufu, plantain, kwanga (cassava root), or potato

Note: African recipes do not include specific amounts for the ingredients as these are passed on through generations and ingredients are added by the age-old method of “taste”. That said, try these luscious dishes and feel free to experiment differing the ratio of ingredients to your desired taste.