Long trip home
West Africa feels a little closer at Le Nouveau Maquis
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Elaine Weddle has spent her adult life traveling, sometimes a few hours from home, and on occasion, to the other side of the world. No matter the destination, her intent is the same. She seeks cuisine that tastes like her ancestral home.
“The food accepted me,” Weddle said. “And the food helped me to get closer to my heritage.”
As a Black American woman growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Weddle remembers becoming interested in her West African heritage upon learning about her family's ties to the historic community of Africatown. Just north of Mobile, Africatown was founded in 1872 by formerly enslaved people smuggled to the U.S. on the Clotilda.
As an adult, she proudly traced her DNA to Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Weddle has routinely sought out West African restaurants, first in Houston in the 1990s, then later in Georgia. When Le Nouveau Maquis opened in 2014, she would drive four hours from Savannah to Stone Mountain to get okra and fufu.
“Every chance I get, I try to drive there,” she said. “I won’t visit family, I’ll [go] there, and I will find a way to pack some food, to get it back.”
In recent years, more Black Americans have followed in Weddle’s footsteps toward West African cuisine, a path that in greater Atlanta leads to Le Nouveau Maquis. Media moments like the fufu challenge on TikTok and the Black Panther movies have brought more Black Americans to the restaurant, many of them trying West African food for the first time.
And while the mother-daughter duo behind the restaurant is thankful for the expanding customer base, their original focus was to serve West African immigrants, providing the comfort food they miss from home.
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