Itâ€™s the 6th of March (at least for another hour or so), and Iâ€™d like to propose a toast.
To a place with waterfalls and highlife music, cities and tiny villages. To a place that, one day at the stroke of midnight soon after independence from British rule, started driving on the right side of the road instead of the left. To a place where mixed drinks are unheard of at most spots (neighborhood bars), so a gin and tonic consists of a shot of gin with a glass bottle of tonic water made the old fashioned wayâ€”with malaria-fighting quinine.
Since Iâ€™ve already moved onto food, hereâ€™s to a place that pounds cassava and plantain mercilessly to make fufu, offers a spectrum of fermented cornmeal treats and okra stew that stretches for a full meter without breaking its mucusy strings. To a place where chop bar customers pay for food by the ladleful and eat side-by-side without any silverware to get in the way of eating. It has oranges that are skinned down to the pith for three American cents and eaten in a way that would make California navels cringe. To the home of rice balls, peanut soup, teeny bananas, giant avocadosâ€¦.
Yes! If you hadnâ€™t guessed yet, itâ€™s Ghana. And I sorely miss the food.
Iâ€™m sure a great deal has changed since my stay of a few months back in 2001, but Iâ€™m guessing the orange sellers still glide by packed buses, fruit balanced skillfully on their heads. Iâ€™ll bet Taco Bell, our favorite University of Ghana hangout spot (which sold nothing resembling a taco or anything remotely Mexican) is still around.
So because of that, I give a handshake (with a thumb snap) to the country on this, its 50th anniversary of independence.
And, of course, Iâ€™ll give you a recipe â€“ without quantities, â€˜cause quantities are so Western Hemisphere.
Ghanaian Pepe (hot sauce)
Jamaican peppers (they look like habaÃ±eros, but are much milder), stems removed
Onion, peeled and cut in wedges
Fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks
Put this all, in the ratios that seem right, into a blender or food processor and puree. Leave a little chunky, if desired. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. (It will keep for quite a while because between the onion, garlic, and ginger, bacteria hardly stands a chance).
Eat with kenke or banku, or, if youâ€™re not into fermented corn products, put it on/in anything that needs a little pep.
Hurrah for Ghana! How about some recipes for fermented corn products?
To tell you the truth, I’ve never attempted making that stuff from scratch! You can get decent banku mix from international or African markets. Mixed with water and stirred until your arms get a nice workout, it comes out as sour and tasty as fresh. If you have a really good African market, you might also be able to get kenke (a harder product) wrapped in banana or palm leaves.