Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Eating Out...

Local Food Stuff

We have been trying new foods lately, after spending the first couple of months eating at places that cater to palates other than Ghanaian. While it's a hoot being wished "Bon Appetite!" by an Ashanti tribal member who is currently working as a waiter at Le Charmiere, or to be congratulated on your choice of stew while sitting in the dark and musty hotel that is Ryan's Irish Pub, we realized that ultimately, coming to Africa and eating the cuisine of the world was as bad as going to Paris and eating at McDonalds. Not that we don't still go out for our favorite foods, but we have started to build a repertoire of native restaurants and foods.

Ghanaians eat a LOT of plantains. We aren't too fond of them boiled, but boy, if you fry those puppies I am a goner! One of the restaurants on the ocean front serves a small bowl of plantains, cut into small chunks and pan fried, for each customer- instead of bread or whatnot. They come with a toothpick stuck in, and with a little salt they are delicious!

Plantain chips are everywhere- roadsides, car side, grocery store- everywhere. They are sliced into chip circles and fried crisp. We all like these and keep a jar of them on the kitchen counter for snacking anytime.

There is a local dish called Red Red that is so good. Beans and rice are cooked with spices and served with fried plantain slices- it's a little hot and spicy, but the plantain cuts it nicely.

Yams are another staple- they are even something you can by from a head-carried-tray at the traffic intersections. Unfortunately, we have tried them grilled, boiled and fried and can't seem to develop a taste for them. This is inconceivable to the locals, one of whom, when accompanying Ted on an apartment tour for one of the rotating employees, inquired- "But where do you pound your yams?" Pounding yams requires a LOT of time, usually two people, a large wooden 'bowl' and a pounding stick (about five feet long and three inches through the middle). One person stands and pounds the yams, the other person moves the pieces around on the upstroke. Yikes.

Kenkey is the local comfort food. It's made from corn/corn meal- we aren't entirely sure what or how and frankly don't want to know. Ghanaians are all keen to share this dish with you- it's served with everything from soup to fish, kind of as a 'bread' or rice accompaniment. It tastes, charitably, like it was cooked in someone's arm pit, and we simply can't choke down more than a polite bite in response to everyone's urging. We tried. Honestly. (We had this same problem in Australia with Vegemite- made presumably in the same arm pit.)

Papaya is a favorite here, and is called 'PoPo' and often sold at the intersections already peeled and sectioned, then wrapped in plastic and offered from the ubiquitous head tray. It's pretty good- fresher and more pungent than any I'd had in the States, and you can't beat that rich coral color.

Of course, everything I've written concerns Ted and me. Cooper is struggling with his starving teenager/puke I'm not eating that paradox. He's been fairly adventurous for him, but keeps forgetting to tell waitpeople to leave all the 'veg' and stuff off his cheeseburgers. He's found a pizza place he likes here and would eat there everyday if we let him, but at school he buys lunch from local vendors who come in just to feed the kids and makes some surprisingly mature choices- roast chicken, rice in fish sauce, and fruit. As I told some friends, his addiction to cheese and cheese-related food has had to adapt to life here in "Try New Foods or Die" land.

We'll keep exploring and trying to get a better handle on living in Africa, as opposed to just living like Americans in Africa. Our next goal is to drop into the local 'chop bar' just down the street from our house. It is called the "Fuud Shack" and has beer and food. When we go we will stick out like a pair of headlights, but if previous experience counts we will be welcomed. Mostly I think we are waiting to make sure we have a big enough store of local food knowledge that we can order without being total tools. Looking foolish happens often enough that we avoid seeking out additional opportunities. :-)