Notes from Ghana #9

Hey there, thanks for all the great comments…I am passing on your greetings for sure. Had a great day today but still writing about it and loading in pics. Check back tomorrow (last night took me one hour to load 5 photos…no kidding).

I will however post some notes of Rory’s about food, below this pic.

For now I will give you a quick glimpse of a “typical adult meeting”. We gather at the “Spot” each day around 5pm for a drink and to settle the day and check in with each other, as this trip is not only new and challenging for the youth. Not your typical meeting room that is for sure. Its also a great vantage point for watching the kids toss a football, walk back and forth to Angelina’s seamstress shop or the bead place, or just get a Fanta for themselves. What a great fun and capable group of adults we have along!

And now, some FOOD  Notes written by  Rory Magill

We have eaten akple (ak-bla) which is a white corn dough for scooping up the beloved red sauce, a tomato sauce rich with fresh, red palm oil (not the clear, filtered, hydrogenated stuff that clogs our arteries in western junk foods) and seasoned with fennel seeds. We have eaten agbolo (a-bo-lo) which is a lighter, spongier version of akple, made so through mild fermentation, giving a very subtle tang to the dough. Most excellent. We have eaten banku (bon-koo) which is not light and spongy, like akple, but denser and more fermented, so that it tastes sour. Least excellent, perhaps. There is also plenty rice and plenty spaghetti and plenty fish. Fry fish, stew fish, sardines (in the salad today, very tasty) and more fry fish. There is chicken and there is beef, but so far, to the consternation of some, there has been no goat. Since MawaKoenya, the catering graduate, returned to the village yesterday, the menu seems to have gone international, and yesterday we enjoyed crepes for dessert after lunch, then a lovely ginger sauce with chicken for dinner, that was described by one of our young diners as Thai take-out. But back to Ghana: fried plantain with stewed bambara beans is a very popular item. Boiled cassava (or agbeli, og-beh-lee) is rather like an african potato. In other parts of Ghana it is pounded for an eternity until the starch polymerizes (we are told) into a tough dough called fufu, not unlike soft rubber, but here in Ewe land it is just plain boiled.

For dessert there is usually fresh fruit, most often pineapple sweet as candy, often bananas; next up will be large sweet mangoes.

For snacks there are cassava biscuits, almost like flat hardtack (for any Newfoundlanders reading) with a lovely hint of the flavour of local coconut oil. The coconut oil here is slightly golden and rich, almost with a hint of smokiness but not exactly, and fantastic. Groundnuts (peanuts) are salted in their skins and sold in long narrow chains of twisted plastic bag, so you can tear one little pouch off and enjoy a snack.

Bread is on the table at every meal and serves as a good default on banku nights and other such moments. Bread in Ghana is virtually always white, very slightly sweet, almost cakey in the crumb, not what you would call substantial, but goes down happily with a spread of Blue Band (yellow shortening) and Fruit jam (listing its second ingredient as Fruit.) The bread toasts nicely at breakfast in the communal toaster. (Remember we are thirty-five….the adults recently stole the toaster from the kids’ dining hall and brought it over to their own dining area. They can probably expect a counter-attack any time.)

Many of the kids have become hooked on Milo for breakfast, a hot malted chocolate drink much superior to Ovaltine, mixed with hot water and tinned milk. Most of the adults get their fix from double-dose Nescafe mixed with the same liquids. The giant and somehow improbable electric coffee maker that once, and only once, issued a great quantity of rather vapid coffee, before blowing circuits and transformers, is not missed. Not to complain: our needs and wishes, gustatory and otherwise, are always cheerfully exceeded. Everybody happy with the food, with the drink and with our living conditions in general, as different as they are from our custom.

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