Hello from a too-long Internet dry spell! ANYWAY, it’s time for nududu and nudada! That’d be “food” and “cooking” for those unversed in Ewe. And they also happen to be a couple of the things people have been curious about. . .
So, what am I eating? Depends where I am. Street food in the Ghanaian capital of Accra is plentiful and tasty. My personal favourites have been from either the jollof or rice & beans stands. You start with either jollof rice (red from a tomato-based sauce) or plain white rice with beans, then go for toppings. Those are fun:
– hot pepper paste – spicy! But a bit is necessary, since it’s flavourful. And sacrilege to Ghanaians if you go without.
– gari – almost like breadcrumbs, though it apparently comes from the inside of the cassava plant
– red (palm?) oil
– stew – also red, tomato based, could contain anything in regards to meat
– fried plaintains (yum yum)
– pasta salad – just like at home
– “sausages” – hot dogs, for the most part nicely pan-fried
– chicken drumsticks
– a whole dried-out fish (still haven’t figured out quite how this is eaten)
And you order everything but the condiments by monetary value. Such as: “I’ll get 50 pesewas rice, 50 pesawas beans, a little pepper, gari, oil, 1 Cedi fried plantains, 50 pesawas pasta salad, 1 Cedi sausages, please”. Tons of food for C3.50, or about $1.75.
What am I not eating? Well, I can’t get into the staple of banku, or its relative kenkey. From what I understand, they are both made with corn (maize) mashed into flour, and then wetted into a dough. From here kenkey gets wrapped in leaves, banku stays bare, and they both get dropped in water and boiled. To me, either tastes a bit like uncooked dough with a slight tang of corn. It’s eaten as an alternative carb to rice. I can’t help thinking it would be much nicer if they put it in the oven for a while (corn bread anyone?).
That said, there is some very tasty bread out here. The Catering class at the Centre out here in Adidome regularly bakes up “butter bread” – like our white bread, and “sweet bread” – like our white bread, but, yep, it’s sweet. Very nice with tea. At my last-Thursday visit to catering, I stayed with the bread crew from start to finish and rolled some dough myself.
Anyway, the Centre provides 3 meals a day to the students, and also to me. If I want. But I do my own breakfast with simple items so I don’t have to deal with anybody bringing my meal over in the mornings. My favourite meals at the centre have been when the stew (see below) came with eggs in it instead of meat, and also the surprisingly flavourful beans with gari. But still, with the removal of banku or kenkey from my personal menu, I was mainly left with rice. And stew. Lots of stew.
It might be a regional thing, but there sure is a lot of it here by the Volta River. It’s usually a chunky tomato-based stew (photo above!) with large hunks of a thick grey meat that I couldn’t recognize for quite some time. It’s fish, of course! I was told “We call it tuna”. Which is a bit… fishy? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself #fishjokeoftheday). But regardless, I’m not sure if it’s the same tuna I know or not. But it’s… not what I really want for two meals a day. SO: I’m making my own dinners from here on out.
For breakfast I do either butter bread or sweet bread, plus tea or Milo (a hot choco-malty drink like Ovaltine, but with more oomph to get me through a snackless morning), and either yogurt collected from a bigger supermarket in the capital or fresh local fruit. Dairy is a rarity out here, and it seems to be more common to use a tin of condensed milk for your tea. I got a carton of shelf-stable German imported milk and I am carefully hoarding a chunk of cheese. The local fruit is primarily bananas, oranges, and pineapples, with papayas (paw-paws here, even in English) and mangoes coming into season. In December, the heavily laden mango trees all over campus will be ripe!
The main veggies at the local market now seem to be: tomatoes, little red onions, okra, plantains, and huge woody yams with white insides. And if you’re lucky some carrots, cabbages, and sweet potatoes. (An aside: cauliflower at the Accra supermarket was about $12 for a small piece!). Plus there’s tons of whole dried-out fish (still don’t get how they’re eaten), and live crabs and shellfish. And vendors with little cans/bottles/bags of things like spices, tomato paste, cooking oil, and noodles. I also have seemingly unlimited access to fresh eggs, as there is a henhouse on the Centre grounds. Hm…
I also have one use-able burner and a microwave. So far on my dinner menu, most of which are eaten with fresh fruit:
– macaroni and cheese
– macaroni and ketchup (yep…)
– spaghetti and tomato paste
– toad in the hole (fried eggs & bread – my favourite right now, and oh-so-local)
– meatless “Irish stew” (okay, carrots, potatoes, and onions, cooked in a stew-like fashion)
– grilled cheese sandwich
And… that’s about it. Limited menu. But creative dinner suggestions welcome!