Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cooking for Twelve

Two weeks ago today I served chichinga and groundnut soup with omo tuo for my extended family while we vacationed in Maine. I got some stellar help from my Uncle Paul (top left), grill master extraordinaire, and my sister (top right). I also got lots of photo help from my Uncle Jim (left in the photo to the left). The meal went over fabulously, though I forgot just how heavy Ghanaian food can be.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Plantain Adventures, Round 2

Four more of my plantains were starting to look brown, and I knew that with my weekend plans, I'd be pressed for time to save these fruits if I didn't cook them today. So I made tatale. They were pretty good, but not quite what I'd had in Ghana. A few notes that I'd change from the Betumi recipe: stick to the 1/3 cup of each flour rather than 1/2 cup, my tatale just tasted too dry (I also used whole wheat rather than white flour, and used a coffee grinder to make the rice flour from uncooked basmati rice, the food processor was too big). I didn't use two full onions, but I liked that the sweet plantain taste didn't have to compete against the onions as much. I also wish I had had more ginger, I'd used the last of it with the kele wele the other day.

I also made far too many, due to the size of the plantains, but my dad came up with a pretty quick and easy solution: fry all of the tatale, freeze the ones you don't finish, and pop them in the toaster when you want to eat them later. Because mine had been a little drier due to the flour content, it worked like a charm.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cape Coast

The drive west, out of Accra and into the jungle:

Despite the overcast light due to it being the rainy season, isn't Cape Coast just lovely?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kele Wele Made At Home

Wonderfully enough, one of my local grocery stores carries plantains that are both pretty cheap and pretty good quality. Most of them weren't quite ripe enough, but the ones that were I decided to cup up and fry to make some kele wele for my sister, her friend, and myself. I was stuck with using olive and canola oil, and all I've got as far as spices go are garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and onions. Claire and her friend Katie both loved them. I would have liked the plantains to be a touch more ripe, but I can let the other eight (bought twelve, cooked four) sit until they're even more yellow than these were. I'll also want to give using peanut oil a shot, since the olive oil tasted a little bit off.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eve of Departure, Round 2

There's honestly too much to say regarding the past threedays so late in the evening before I hop back on a plane to the US. Between Cape Coast, Kakum, the world cup match between Ghana and team USA, the Eastern Region, and all of the hours and kilometers in between, it's been a long weekend. There's a lot to think about from this trip, a lot to write about, and all of that takes far more energy than I've got right now. In the mean time, I'll put up some pictures and finish packing. I'll be writing more when I get home. Thanks for following me this far, hopefully I'll have more adventures back in the states.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Accra Adventure

This morning, Fran and Naomi worked to grind the corn that had been fermenting for a few days in water into a meal for making banku. Fran also saved the oranges, tangerines, and limes before they went too ripe by squeezing them into juice, which was delicious both with breakfast and dinner.

I spent today down in Accra, meeting up with Maddie. She's the sister of a friend of my boyfriend, and is working on an international internship teaching HIV/AIDS education classes to 12-15 year olds at a school here. She'd already been here for three weeks when I landed in Accra last weekend, and the day finally came when the two of us were free. It was a lesson in traveling solo in Ghana for sure, I had to take a cab to a place I'd never seen before to meet with someone for the first time. One great thing about Ghana, though, is that no matter where you are, you can stop someone on the street and ask for directions. If they don't know, they'll ask someone else who does or point you in a general direction and tell you to ask anyone in that area, they'll know. When searching for a restaurant Maddie had been to a few weeks ago, we were delivered personally by a woman we askedto a place to grab lunch (not the same place, but still good, still close to the ocean). I got some red red with fish, a really popular dish around here. It's ripe plantain and cowpeas (black eyed peas) cooked with palm oil which gives it a bright color, thus the name. My fish watched me as I ate, though. It was a bit uncomfortable.

On the way back, my lesson on travel in Ghana continued, as my taxi broke down on the Motorway several kilometers from the road into Community 18 where I'm staying. I had to wave down another cab, get in with three strangers, and go first to where they needed to go before heading back to the house. No problems, I'm getting familiar with the area enough to find my way back to Abattoir Road and through the more residential streets.

Dinner was some boiled cocoyam, yam, and ripe plantain accompanied by the leftover palm nut soup and some fried beans. All in all pretty good. Dessert, of course, was fresh mango (which is so unbelievably good here, I don't even like mango very much in the states).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baeta, Day Three

Today's lunch was reheated light soup with more smoked fish added, along with some gari. Gari is awesome, it's this slightly fermented cassava meal that has a taste reminiscent of sourdough bread. It swells up to about double its size when water and soup are added, is mostly starch and fiber, but has some protein in it according to the composition index I got form the Food Research Institute. Surprise surprise, it's also a good source of calcium.

Barbara came to see us today at the house to properly finish our series of interviews with her. She has some really interesting stories of the meals she's had to serve, of how she got her school started, of how she tried to make it a practice not to borrow money from anybody (she only borrowed twice in her life, and paid the debt off promptly). She told one story of how she served Jimmy Carter breakfast when he was visiting, and he took a liking to the Tom Brown porridge because it was served with groundnuts, groundnut being the local term for peanuts.

I'm having Maosi make me a dress from the fabric at the top of the stack in the picture to the left. She says it'll be ready tomorrow, I'm very excited. I'll be sure to put up a picture or two!

Things to look out for later in the week: Ghana plays USA on Saturday, any and all of you reading should watch for sure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food Research Institute (and more Fufu)

Today was spent breakfast- and lunching at Barbara Baeta's with the intention to record some more interviews with her. Barbara the ever-hospitable, however, had several guests over for both breakfast and lunch and so we couldn't get the intimate conversations with her that we managed to capture last week, but we did get some quick recordings of her guests talking about their history with Barbara. We had fufu and palmnut soup again, but Barbara has her way of making peasant food feel decadent and gourmet. Between breakfast and lunch, Barbara accompanied Fran and myself to the Food Research Institute where we met with several of the faculty, learned a whole lot, and walked away with 1) the promise of more pineapple chuff flour and 2) a booklet entitled Compositions of Foods Commonly Used in Ghana, published in 1975 but promised to be fairly accurate. I wish I had had this thing earlier in the semester to help me begin with the compositional breakdown of the recipes Fran hopes to publish (that's been an ongoing project since the start of the spring semester, and will continue into the fall for sure). It's got things broken up into food category, such as grains, doughs, fruits,nuts, etc, and it's really interesting to see what they have compared to what the USDA has published in their nutritional database(from which I was working all spring).

And now for something completely different:

Today, on a wall near circle 37, I saw "Ethiopia" scrawled in nearly unnoticeable letters across the corner of an ad for some breakfast porridge. I've pointed out the stickers on the backs of taxis and tro tros, and most advertisements and shop signs are hand-painted (even corporate logos like MTN and Coca Cola). There is, however, a severe lack of street art, of murals, of graffiti. There's no obvious paint covering graffiti up, either. So what is it about West African culture that stops this general practice? I know graffiti didn't emerge as a culture of its own in the states until at least the late 1970s, but painted vandalism and illegal murals have been around for a long time in western countries, especially in times of conflict. I'm wondering why in West Africa the only painted images on the walls are to advertise? I did a quick image search on google for West African street art and found almost nothing. A blog about street art that I follow, Wooster Collective, featured an artist in Senegal, but he's been the only one anywhere remotely near Ghana. South Africa is full of graffiti artists, could this be due to a feeling of us-vs-them that stemmed from apartheid? (Fran suggested that here in Ghana, there is none of that sentiment, that the general attitude of the population is one of hard work and community, that there is no oppressive "them", no "man" to rebel against, even in this packed and sprawling city of Accra.) Is it because of the intense Christianity that seems pretty much universal? In the north, where the population is more Islamic, is this trend any different? How about in Islamic neighborhoods in the south, since there are mosques and Islamic schools around here? This would definitely be something to look into during potential follow-up visits to Ghana when I have more time and more familiarity with Accra.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two Nights of Fufu

Both last night and tonight Fran and I made soup and fufu. Lastnight, Sunday, we used fufu flour and stirred it over the stove until it reached the right consistency, but today, Monday, Kay and Naomi taught me how to properly pound fufu from plantains and cassava. Fran caught a short video of me pounding fufu.

Last night, I also learned to pound palm nuts in order to make palm nut soup. After the palm fruits (those red things we bought at the market) were

boiled for 45-60 minutes, they were mashed in the taller mortar using the hard stick. Then they were soaked in hot water, strained several times, and that cream was what was used forthe palm nut stew.

Today, Maosi (who owns the sewing kiosk outside) took me to Makola Market down in Accra. It was one of the coolest things I've seen since I've arrived in Ghana. We caught one of the tro tro, the large vans that act as busses and have really cheap fare to ride. It took us through some really rough dirt roads rather than chance getting caught on Spintex Road or pay the toll on the Motorway, but that alone was a really cool experience, driving through so much of the area between Tema and Accra rather than right past it on the fast roads. I bought several yards of really nice wax prints, and I'm hoping to have Maosi make me a dress before I leave.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Week One, Down

I cannot believe I've been here for over a week, now. It both feels much shorter and much longer, like I was just in the states and simultaneously have been in this house for quite some time, now. I've grown accustomed to the time, the climate, the bugs (for the most part, I did battle with a cockroach that landed on my leg during dinner).

This morning, Fran Naomi (pictured below with her mother, who sells maize) and I went down to the Tema market to take care of some more shopping, and I took advantage of the time to play tourist. I snapped aton of photos, mostly of the people who sold us things. I also managed to stop a fabric seller and pick up six yards of cloth for six Ghana cedis (that's about four dollars, I'm pleased). I wish I had gotten a picture of her, but I was too busy worrying about finding exact change. She had the fabric folded up, stacked, and tied to a board that she balanced on her head, plus a few cloths draped over her arms. I also finished the skirt I was working on this afternoon! It needs to be run through my sewing machine once I get home, but for now it'll do the trick.

Alright, photo dump:

And the skirt: