Fabulous Food #1 – Fufu

Eating FufuThe truth of the matter is Ghana has some of the most fabulous food around! However, you must get past many preconceived notions of proper eating (Western style) before you can begin to enjoy what Ghana has to offer in the way of meals and nourishment.

The first thing that must be understood is that Ghana is a communal nation. What that means is there is very little than the people of Ghana do in a “private” arena. Because families must live together in close proximity, sometimes without the benefit of individual bedrooms or private bathrooms, their customs may seem to be just a little bit “liberal” for Western sensibilities. However, if you are going to get along in Ghana, and in many other Third World countries, the first thing that must go is your notion of privacy. Very little is “private” in Ghana. Families sleep together, in some instances shower in close proximity, and very definitely eat together.

Ghanaian main dishes are organized around a starchy staple food which is paired with a sauce or soup containing a protein source like fish or other meat. And I would say that the national dish of Ghana is fufu. Fufu is an interesting dish to prepare. When I have observed the preparation, it involves steamed plantains and steamed cassava root, plus one person to pound the mixture (usually male) and one person to add the ingredients as the pounding is happening (usually female). It’s similar to the kneading of bread from scratch, though involving much more power to reach the right doughy consistency. What results is a big cake of dough that is then slow cooked and served in a bowl surrounded by some type of soup or often okra stew, a popular combo.

Now, much of the food in Ghana is eaten with the hands (or rather, with the right hand specifically). And if there is a group eating together, then together they share one big bowl of food where they each eat hand to mouth. You eat Fufu, (and Banku, Kenkey and Rice Balls for that matter) with your hands, breaking off little pieces of the pasty dough and dipping it in the soup, placing it in your mouth and “swishing” it around to savor the flavor before swallowing. This is why every communal meal is begun with the all-important hand-washing ceremony, and why bowls of water, soap and cloths are present at every meal. After the washing comes the eating, and after the eating comes more washing to finish. This is a hard process for us Westerners to get used to, but the food is delicious and the soup/stew is always very tasty and can be eaten alone, if desired.

Plantains          Cassava-Root          Pounding Fufu