A few weeks Ghana WASH conducted video shows in a few of the communities we’ve been building latrines in. The purpose of the video shows was to sensitize the community on the need of proper sanitation and to determine whether the community is ready to continue with the Open Defecation Free (ODF) evaluation process. Some communities in Ghana are designated ODF by the Government of Ghana. The idea is to give the community the a sort of badge of honor when all its community members stop open defecating. And other communities can look look at ODF communities and also strive be get the designation.
Before the video show, we walked around the community between 4pm and 6pm to take photos to show to the community during the video show. Here are some of the photos I took:
Men playing Spa, a popular card game in Ghana, under a tree.
A woman preparing some food.
Children love to be photographed.
A woman grinding corn at the mill.
Girls fetching water from a stream.
Just another Ghanaian child scared of a white man.
And you can thank me later for not posting any open defecation photos.
In Ghana summer, fall, winter, and spring don’t exist. The only two seasons are the “rainy season” and “dry season”. You can also think of the two seasons as REALLY hot and hot. We have been in the rainy season here for the last couple of months.
You can imagine how loud these things are.
During the rainy season there is an abundance of critters. The other morning some of the children in my village were digging small holes in the ground with machetes. After some investigation I discovered that they were hunting for crickets. Back in America some children like to play with insects. However, these children weren’t just having a good time, they were hunting for their lunch. Later that day the children came to my house with about a dozen huge crickets in a bag.
I wasn’t ready to try grilled cricket, especially one prepared by a child.
Is this Elvish Lembas Bread from Middle Earth? That’s the first thought that came to mind when I first saw abolo. Abolo is mainly found in the Volta Region of Ghana. The first time I discovered abolo was during my first visit to my site in the Volta Region. Our bus stopped just before the suspension bridge that passes over Lake Volta (the world’s largest man-made lake) in the Volta Region. When we stopped dozens of food sellers carrying a variety of different food on their heads rushed our bus. Luckily, I was travelling with my counterpart who knew the drill so didn’t panic. As I soon learned, most buses and trotros stop here to allow their passengers to by food. My counterpart bought some abolo and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Abolo is ground, soaked corn flour that is steamed or baked on leaves. It is prepared by adding sugar and water to ground corn to form a dough. The dough is allowed to rise overnight before it is wrapped in cornhusks and grilled, steamed or baked. The result is a sweet, sponge-like bread. I’ve seen two types of abolo. There is the thin variety that I first saw by Lake Volta. But I’ve also bought a thicker kind in Ho. I believe the flat one is grilled and the thick one is baked. To me the two types taste very similar.
Thick abolo. This type seems to be more common.
Although one bite isn’t enough to fill the stomach of a grown man, three abolos eaten with “pepe” makes a fine lunch (especially when a hard-boiled egg or dried fish is added). Pepe is just fresh ground red peppers, tomato, and oil. Pepe is eaten with many different foods, such a banku, kenky, koliko, etc. So it will come up again as I describe more foods in the future.
Last week I was in a nearby community helping my local NGO collect population data. We were going house-to-house and recording how many people lived in each house. Although the work was tedious and consisted of a LOT of walking, it gave me a chance to practice my Ewe with people I met along the way. Additionally, it was interesting to see the layout of the community and everyone’s house. One lady we went to was growing sugarcane outside of her house. When I told her I like sugarcane she promptly picked up a machete and started hacking away at one of the bushes. Then she offered me the stalk sugarcane she came out with. Sometimes it pays to be a yevu.
Sugarcane growing outside someone’s house.
Tea bread, or maybe it’s sugar bread.
Yevubolo literally translates to white man (yevu) bread (bolo) in Ewe and ironically it is just about the only type of bread you can find here. I have yet to see whole grain, whole wheat, or rye. The yevubolo comes in many different shapes, sizes, and variations. Typically at the market a small loaf costs GH¢1.00 and a large loafs costs GH¢2.00. Some of the different various are sugar bread, salt bread, and tea bread. However, they all look and taste the same to me. I like to think the yevubolo is a step up from Wonder Bread, because it is baked fresh without many preservatives (as with most of the food here). The Yevubolo is usually eaten at breakfast with tea (hence tea bread) or oats.
The main reason I wanted to write about yevubolo is because oddly it is part of the culture here. Whenever someone from my community sees me leaving the village they tell me to buy yevubolo for them. For example, it’s about a five minute walk from my house to the only paved road that runs through my village and during this walk I will always get at least a few people to tell me to buy yevubolo for them. This isn’t just my community hazing the new white guy either, anytime anyone leaves town someone will ask him/her to buy yevubolo. It’s almost a way of telling someone to have a safe trip.
Do I ever buy yevubolo for someone? For the most part, no. I don’t want to set a bad precedent that my measly living allowance can’t support. However, it is considered a nice gesture bring back yevubolo for someone when you return from a trip. For instance, when I first arrived in my community I brought some yevubolo for my landlord.
Like many people in rural Ghana, my landlord owns goats. They are kept in a pen and everyday they are let out to wander, play, or eat just about anything. Although not very entertaining for Ghanaians, the goats are a great source of entertainment for me and I know I’m not the only white person in Ghana who loves watching goats. It’s particularly exciting when the goats fight each other over food or just for fun. When goats fight they continuously butt heads until one gives up. My favorite though is when they play “king of the hill”. Image a goat fight on a mound of sand and more than two goats involved. One goat tries to defend the top of the “hill” while the others try to knock him off.
However, the goats do get annoying at times. Many people here cook outside and roaming goats can often be found with their head in an unattended coal pot. Furthermore, the baby goats are always crying for their mothers when they want milk. The goat pen is about fifteen feet outside of my bedroom window and I can hear the goats making weird noises at night.
After church yesterday I came home to see a sick goat lying down outside of my compound. A man who lives in my compound decided that the goat should be put out of its misery. Soon after, two other men from my community came. In about an hour they slit the goat’s throat, skinned it, and gutted it. That night I ate fufu with goat meat.
Goat being cut open.
Fufu with light soup and tilapia.
I want to serve up a little bit of Ghanaian cuisine and today I’ll start with arguably the most popular—fufu. I mentioned earlier that fufu essentially is an eating utensil that you eat. It’s used as a vehicle to get whatever you are eating with the fufu into your mouth.
Preparation: Fufu is made with cassava and either plantain in southern Ghana (where I am) or yam in northern Ghana. Cassava is a flavorless starchy root that is fairly abundant in parts of Africa. First, the cassava and plantain are boiled. Then they are pounded together using an oversized mortar and pestle. Typically, one person stands and pounds, while the other sits and mixes the fufu while the pestle is in the air. The result is a large sticky ball with a dough-like consistency.
My host mom and host sister pounding fufu.
Eating: Fufu is usually served with a light soup and some short of meat, such as fish, beef, goat, or grasscutter (deserves a blog post on its own). Fufu is made to eat with your hands. My method is to grab a chunk, mold the chunk so it’s spoon-shaped, and scoop-up some soup. Now the hard part. Once it’s in your mouth don’t chew, only swallow. Chewing will cause the fufu is expand, making any attempt to swallow futile. As always, practice makes perfect.
Final Thoughts: During my first week in Ghana I was scared of fufu and you most likely would be too. However, after eating it for the past few months it has gown to be one of my favorite foods.