When living in a different country, one thing that can be difficult to get used to is the local cuisine. Living with local families is an ideal way to try authentic Ghanaian food, although for some it is an acquired taste! Ghanaian people love to add pepper to their food – and lots of pepper at that! (When Ghanaian’s talk about pepper, they generally mean chili peppers).
While food varies from the North of the country to the South, Ghanaian food is typically starchy and largely consists of yam, maize and beans. In the South, staples include plantains and cassava, while in the North main staples include millet and sorghum.
Some of the main starchy dishes are:
* FuFu - pounded cassava and plantain or pounded yam and plantain.
* Banku/Akple - cooked fermented corn dough and cassave dough
* Kenkey/Dokonu - fermented corn dough, wrapped in corn or plantain leaves and cooked into a solid ball
* Tuo Zaafi - a maize dish from Northern Ghana
* Fonfom - a maize dish of the Ahanta and Nzema people from Southern Ghana
* Konkonte - made from cassava powder
* Gari - made from cassava
* Omo Tuo - pounded rice balls typically served with groundnut soup
* Waakye - rice and beans
* Jollof rice - rice cooked in a spicy tomato sauce
* Red Red - fried plantains (like sweet banana) with beans in a tomato sauce
During induction in Ghana, volunteers are invited to try a variety of Ghanaian dishes, including Red Red, Jollof rice and Banku.
In Ghana stews and soups are very popular and are served with most of the above dishes. There is a wide variety of flavours; some are quite adventurous and sophisiticated and help to add taste to what is otherwise quite a bland dish. Spices such as thyme, garlic, ginger and bay leaf and widely used and vegetables such as wild mushroom, garden eggs, auberrgine (eggplant) and especially tomatoes can be found at most local markets. As for meat, there is a somewhat surprising availability with beef, pork, goat, sheep, chicken, smoked meat and fish; crab, shrimp, periwinkles, octopus; bush meat, snails, and duck; offal, trotters and cow skin all being featured in Ghanaian cuisine.
Palm oil, coconut oil, Shea butter, palm kernel oil and peanut oil are important local oils used for cooking and frying. In certain dishes, palm oil is the preferred oil for preparing it. Classic examples are okra stew, fante fante, red red, egusi stew and mpihu/mpotompoto (taro porridge). Coconut oil, palm kernel oil and Shea butter are used for frying most local fried foods. The most popular soups are groundnut soup, light (tomato) soup, kontomire (taro leaves) soup, palm nut soup, and okra soup.
Tomato stew or gravy is a popular stew which is often served with rice. Other vegetable stews are made with kontomire, garden eggs, egusi (pumpkin seeds), spinach, okra, etc., mixed with any protein of one's choice.
Usually rice is served with a soup or stew, kenkey is served with fried fish and hot pepper while banku is usually served with okra stew or soup and occasionally with tilapia. Fufu, akple, and konkonte are served with soup.
In Ghana, much of the cooking is done outside over a coal pot. Banku and Fufu both take a lot of preparation and are very popular with local people. A lot of Ghanaians eat these types of meals for breakfast, as it has the advantage of leaving you feeling full for quite some time!
Red Red is perhaps the most popular mean with volunteers, although a few have expressed their love for banku and even fufu!
Food is served all over the country in small stalls by the side of road or in markets. It is usually very tasty, as well as very reasonably priced!
This week four of our volunteers visited Egyirlkrom Refugee Camp, which is around 20 km from Cape Coast in the Central Region. Their visit was organised by Covenant Daycare Centre (CDC) head teacher Margaret Ackonu. Teaching and Care volunteers Jordan Swearingen and Carter Suryadevarawent went along with journalism volunteers Zoe Sheinkopf and Derrick Crump. Children from CDC also attended as the focus of the visit was to spend time at the Camp’s primary school.
Mrs Ackonu said she had been visiting the camp and trying to find ways to help those living there, having first fled and now facing exile from their homes in Cote d’Ivoire.
The first visit was made on March 16 of this year. During this visit the children interacted with each other happily, proving that when it comes to children, language is no barrier.
Mrs Ackonu says she hopes the school visits will be of great benefit not only to the children of CDC but to those living in the camp. It is hoped the Ghanaian children will learn some French while the refugee children pick up English, as it is probable they will soon be called Ghana home.
I had the opportunity to visit the camp in January of this year and was suitably impressed by how well organised the camp seemed to be. It was clean and allowed plenty of space for the inhabitants, allowing them to preserve some of their dignity in what are inevitably tragic circumstances.
Egyirlkrom Refugee Camp is home to over 500 men, woman and children, who fled from their homes in the neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.
The Second Ivorian Civil War broke out in March 2011 when the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) escalated into full-scale military conflict between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the President of Côte d'Ivoire since 2000, and supporters of the internationally recognised president-elect Alassane Ouattara. After months of unsuccessful negotiations and sporadic violence between supporters of the two sides, the crisis entered a critical stage as Ouattara's forces seized control of most of the country, with Gbagbo entrenched in Abidjan, the country's largest city. International organizations have reported numerous instances of human rights violations by both sides, in particular in the city of Duékoué. The UN and French forces took military action, with the stated objective to protect their forces and civilians. Ouattara's forces arrested Gbagbo at his residence on 11 April.
Life at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) run camp is extremely basic, with homes being made out of tents. Residents are forbidden form showing any preference towards a particular religion. One can only assume this to be a way of preventing any clashes and potential rioting from breaking out. The camp has a health centre, a school and decent sanitation.
The volunteers said it had been an insightful, if somewhat sad experience. They said it was wonderful to see the children playing together and praised the camp management for the organisation.
One of the residents I spoke too said he hoped Ghana would learn from Cote d’Ivoire and strive to ensure peaceful elections in December 2012.
Mrs Ackonu hopes to make these visits a regular occurrence and she hopes that one day she will be able to bring the refugee children to CDC, something I’m sure they were greatly enjoy.
On Monday, July 1ST, Republic Day was celebrated in Ghana. The volunteers had the day off and very much appreciated the long week-end! Republic Day celebrates Ghana’s independence from British rule and the birth of the Republic.
Political independence from British colonizers was hard-won through a series of massive political upheavals that lasted for over a century. But finally, in 1957, Ghana was declared an independent republic. Three years later, the government instituted the first Republic Day celebrations, on July 1st, 1960.
Before colonization, Ghana was home to one of the largest and most influential tribes in the region: the Empire of Ashanti. But when Portuguese explorers first found the area in the 15th century, they realized it was rich in gold, ivory and other precious materials. The Portuguese and other European nations began fighting the Ashanti Empire for control in the 1800s, but the British won, and began establishing colonies in 1874.
After World War II, the war-weary British Crown did not have the resources to maintain control of its colonies. Ghana was the first of many African nations to become fully independent. The process started in 1952, when a man named Kwame Nkrumah won during a parliamentary election. Dr. Nkrumah had previously been jailed for encouraging boycotts, strikes and other forms of civil disobedience, but was released when he won the election. From his new position of power, he was able to negotiate peace, and eventually freedom, with the British in 1957.Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a peaceful period in the nation’s history was interrupted by a series of political coups, initially sparked by the CIA in the United States.
Dr. Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966, and fighting continued until 1981, when a man named Jerry Rawlings seized control. He suspended elections, political parties and slowly drove the country into economic ruin. In the 1980s, he realized the error of his ways, and changed many of his policies. Elections resumed in 1996, and several peaceful transfers of power mean that Ghana is finally reaching a stable democracy.
Republic Day is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the nation. People visit their families, attend entertainment programs throughout the country and just generally enjoy the extra day off from work! The day is also used to honor the senior citizens of the nation, who worked hard to build Ghana into what it is today.
Volunteers took the opportunity to travel and visited places such Cape Coast and Wli waterfalls. Others chose to remain in Accra and enjoy the long weekend! While the celebrations across the country were low key, people took the opportunity to go to the cinema, shop on Oxford Street and visit some of more popular restaurants, including Papaye which was so busy people struggled to find a seat!
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