I know it’s recently become terribly uncool to post “instagramed” pictures of your food online, but I figure food is one of the main cultural expressions that is unique to each country and at least of some passing interest to those from elsewhere.
For the most part Ghana is not known for its culinary exports (other than raw materials like cocoa and fruit), but I’ve found the food more than satisfactory and have very few complaints, if at all. In fact, I’ve really needed to dwell on it to be able to dream up any major food cravings (broccoli and coffee are the two main ones). In Tamale, there is very little one can’t find in the way of western food (hamburgers, pizza, indian, ice cream, cheese, cake, etc.). In Accra, moreover, you’d be hard pressed to come up with anything under the sun that’s not available if you’re willing to fork over the cedis for it.
As a general rule, traditional Ghanaian food is centred around the ever present starch ball (either rice, yam, corn, or cassava or a combination) along with a saucy soup and/or meat vegetable dish. What it lacks in flavour and diversity, it makes up for with enormous quantities and tongue numbing saltiness. There are definitely some standout dishes (not featured herein, unfortunately), these included deep fried yams and hot pepper sauces, deep fried plantains and spice mix (Kelliwelli), banku (slightly sour, fermented maize starch ball) with groundnut (peanut) soup, and pavla sauce (cocoa yam leaves, the main green vegetable).
Overall, I’ve been surprised by how much fish is eaten, even though Tamale is quite a few sweltering, unrefrigerated kilometres away from any water bodies. Another, important fact is just how much of the food is imported from elsewhere. The traditional staples (cassava, yam, maize) are locally grown, but a lot of the chicken, rice, dairy, canned goods, and even fruit juices are imported from Asia, South America or Europe. This obviously has major implications for food security, trade balances, and local agriculture development as I’ll hopefully address more fully in a future post.
Below is a typical week’s worth of food (f0r my family at least). I missed one dinner and one breakfast and went out to eat once. At this stage all the cooking is done by the two live-in nieces who are highly incredulous of my offers to help in the kitchen. So far I have been regulated to chopping vegetables and stirring pots, but with time I hope to take a more active role.