Pounding fufu

It was getting late last Thursday night and I hadn’t yet eaten dinner.

Ghana sits pretty close to the equator so it gets dark very early here (around 6:30pm), I miss the long summer Canadian nights.

My stomach is still far from being accustomed to Ghanaian food, and I get stomach cramps after almost everything I eat so I was apprehensive about fuelling more stomach pain. I walked down the main (only) street in Kpandai passing by the food stands that line the streets. I stopped at my usual place – it has no name, nor an accompanying sign and its easy to walk right by unless you’re looking hard. Under the tin roof my Kpandai sisters sit by huge iron pots heating tonight’s only dish. Two young girls are working hard, washing dishes, keeping coals hot and one is managing a two year old boy tied around her waist in African cloth. We begin with the usual greetings of “Good evening, how are you?” “Ah! I am fine” “How was work?” “Ah! Work was fine!” And our conversation in slow, deliberate English continues. I am given the only chair to sit on. I ask what is on the menu for dinner and am told that tonight will be fufu and light soup.

Fufu is made from yams, giant potato-like legumes and is a main ingredient in most things in Kpandai. The early harvest yams just came into season and the town is flooded with them. Giant trucks are loaded to the brim with Kpandai yams headed to the capital Accra everyday from the station.

The boiled yams are already in a pot on the fire and Ruayata pulls out a few with her bare hands and serves me them with a mystery red sauce as dip. “You are invited” she says, as she offers them to me. They’re delicious and I quickly fill myself on boiled yam. The young girls, Alice and Tebeta, put the boiled yams in a giant wood pestle and sit on either side of it and pound the boiled yams with giant wooden mortars in a rhythmic ‘thump, thump’ to make fufu . I ask if I could try pounding the fufu and get a few laughs from the girls. They think I am joking, but I am sooo far from joking. I grab the small wooden stool and sit across from Alice and begin to pound the fufu. It is really hard work and I’m soon sweating. Rhythm is also not my forte, and I frequently miss my cue and collide with Alice’s mortar. On my last effort, the entire ball of fufu sticks to my mortar and falls in the dirt ground. I join in the hysterical laughter of Alice, Thebeta, my Kpandai sisters and the large crowd of onlookers that had stopped to watch the obruni (white person) pound fufu.

For the first time, I feel like I belong.

The fufu is washed off without much permanent damage and I am served my second dinner of fufu and light soup. I desperately wish I hadn’t eat so many boiled yams!

Light soup is a tomato based soup, with bouillon, crushed/smoked/boiled fish, a generous amount of pepe (a spicy pepper) and an even more generous serving of palm oil. Palm oil seems to be a main ingredient in most things.

I cherish the friendships I have made already in Kpandai. It takes me so long to walk the short distance between my office and home as each of my new friends along the way wave me over and make me come sit with them and chat. Small children yell “Hello! Hello! Hello Faaaaddah!” (translation: Father. We can thank white missionaries for that title!) from the side of the roads and my hand is constantly waving. It can get exhausting! Ghanaians are extremely friendly, helpful, welcoming and always ready to make a new friend.

I am still very new in Kpandai and in Ghana and have an infinite number of things still to learn but I am really excited about spending the next 11 and a bit months surrounded by warm Ghanaians.

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6 thoughts on “Pounding fufu

  1. Alex (or “Joyce”)–wonderful to hear your stories from Ghana! Your mother sent me your blog after we saw each other in PauB this summer. Talk about late Canadian summer nights! I’m glad to hear that you are doing exciting, inspiring things. I look forward to reading future posts.

  2. Did I miss the protein part of the meal? Just kidding. Interesting how root vegetables have been a staple worldwide in human evolution–potatoes in Ireland, kumara in New Zealand, yams with you, taro in SE Asia, etc. I wonder how your carrots are doing back in West Vancouver? Enjoy your weekend in the “big city”.

  3. mmmm. Wonderful Ontario peaches, our staple orange food. haha. Glad to hear everyone is friendly (not that it was unexpected). Just about to go for a shole swim in our favorite wavy spot missing you lots!!!.

  4. Pingback: Pounding Fufu Pt. 2 | what's a girl ghana do?

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