Posted tagged ‘T-Zed’

“We had so much fun in Ghana and they are really lovely people.”

May 22, 2015

The rain started around 12:30 last night. I was lying in bed when I heard the first drops plunking the sill then more drops. The sound was soothing almost like a lullaby. I drifted off to sleep. When I woke this morning, everything was soaked but the rain had stopped. The sky soon cleared and the sun came out. The morning has that after rain chill you know won’t last.

The spawn and I are now openly avowed enemies in an endless war. When I saw it on the feeder earlier, I went out and tried to sneak the hose, but the spawn heard, jumped off the feeder and sat on the back of the lounge chair flitting its tail at me and chattering. It was irate. I got the hose anyway, and the spawn took off running onto the branches still chattering at me. It stopped a couple of times, looked at me and let me have it. Later I noticed it was back so I went out on the deck, but the spawn immediately took off though I think I managed to spray it a bit. This spawn has become my white whale.

Last night I watched an old Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. It was his trip to Ghana which I had seen first time around in 2007. It was Bourdain’s first trip to sub-Saharan Africa which, according to him is a large, mysterious land mass. On the voice-over he mispronounced Accra then did it again and again even though the Minister correctly pronounced. He also mispronounced akpeteshie, a homemade really strong alcohol in Ghana. He drank it a few times and raised his glass in appreciation, but I don’t think he really liked it. His face was a giveaway, but he didn’t want to offend so he smiled and the Ghanaian men loved it. The filming was all over Ghana and even in the Northern Region though he didn’t take an overnight bus but rather a Ghanaian Air Force helicopter. He ate in a chop bar, in a market and right by the ocean with the Minister of Tourism. He said he loved the variety of hot peppers which I didn’t always. Sometimes the food was so hot you couldn’t taste other than the pepper. He had it all, the best Ghanaian food: kenkey, fufu, t-zed, palm nut stew, groundnut stew and rock lobsters fresh from the ocean. I envied him the lobsters and remembered eating them in Dix’s Cove. We had paid a couple of guys who got them for us right there in the water then they boiled them in a pot on a charcoal burner sitting on rocks by the water. That was an all time amazing meal. I watched Bourdain wander through Makola Market tasting food along the way. He ate plantain chips and I wanted some. He even tried grasscutter and was glad he hadn’t seen one until after he’d eaten. It is a rodent but a rather tasty rodent.

I loved watching Ghana unfold through dancing, music, Kente weaving, clothes made of colorful cloth, the faces of its beautiful children and the joy the Ghanaians take in welcoming a visitor. Bourdain got that part perfectly.

“He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food”

August 4, 2014

The sun is back after a three-day hiatus. I was on the deck earlier to fill the feeders and noticed how wet all the wood still is. I hope the sun stays warm enough to dry everything. Usually this time of year the fields near the marshes have turned brown, but this year has been so cool even those grasses are still green. August is generally the hottest month but not yet.

Yesterday Peapod came so the larder is full again and that got me to thinking about food, Glorious Food. I eat a lot of different foods that I never even knew existed until I was an adult. My mother fed us what we’d eat and seldom experimented with our taste buds. We were kids and kids didn’t taste. Kids looked. I know what our reactions to hummus and guacamole would have been. They look like baby food, ejected baby food, and we would have made disgusting noises and pushed the dishes aside. They happen to be two of my favorites now. We only ate white bread. I never buy it now. I buy grainy breads, naan or pita breads. We would have rejected naan and pita. They’re round. Bread wasn’t round. It was sliced. Vegetables were unknown territory aside from potatoes, carrots and green beans. We liked meat. Hamburger was common in so many different dishes. We never cared. They all looked and tasted good. If you had told me I’d eat goat, eel and bushmeat when I was older, I would have been horrified. Even as a teenager I never expanded my palate. There was little opportunity for that. Chinese was the exotic food in town. The start of my food journey was Ghana.

It was at my live-in where we each stayed with a Ghanaian family as part of our training that I became an adventurous eater out of necessity and cultural sensitivity. On the porch outside my room was a table and on the first night dinner was put on that table. It was some sort of meat, a soup and something gelatinous. No one was there to explain what I was eating. I figured I had to use my hand as there were no utensils so I broke off a gelatinous piece, dipped it in the soup and cautiously put it in my mouth. No chewing was necessary. It slid right down my throat. The meat tasted okay but it was fatty and bony. The soup was pepper hot but not too pepper hot. I ate most of the meal because I didn’t want to offend my host family.

We got comfortable with each other and family members started to sit and eat with me sharing the common soup bowl. I found out the gelatinous blob was T-Zed, the northern Ghanaian staple food, and the meat was goat. I wasn’t bothered at all by the goat or the blob. By then I had spent three or more weeks in Ghana and I just ate what was put in front of me. I did have favorites and I did have foods I didn’t like, never liked the whole time I was there, but I tried everything. My palate expanded exponentially. I even liked grasscutter aka bushmeat and scientifically known as the greater cane rat (Thryonomys swinderianus). It is considered a delicacy. I ate it with bread.

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

March 29, 2014

Last night it rained, and it is still damp, but it’s warm. I stood out on the deck for a while after I filled the bird feeders. Gracie wandered the backyard. The snow is pretty much gone. It will be 49˚ today. The rain will be back this afternoon.

I had Chinese food for dinner last night. It got me thinking about food. I was the average kid who didn’t like a whole lot of vegetables, who found the idea of eating vegetables a parental conspiracy. Potatoes, especially mashed, were at the top of my willing and eager to eat list of foods. Canned LeSueur peas were also a favorite. My mother made us eat carrots, and I think that was it for my list of acceptable veggies. We never had salad except in the summer, and it was usually potato salad, not greenery. Italian and Chinese were the only foreign foods we all ate. The Chinese was always take-out.

It wasn’t until I went to Ghana that my palate expanded. Those two years were filled with new experiences and eating strange foods was one of them. It was there I first tasted Indian food. The restaurant, The Maharaja, looked liked what I always imagined an Indian restaurant to be. It had colorful fabrics on the walls, cushions on the floor for seating and a menu of foods totally unfamiliar to me. I read the descriptions and ordered. The food was delicious. I add Indian food to my list. Talal’s was a small Lebanese restaurant near the Peace Corps office. Volunteers ate there so often the owner made what he called a Peace Corps pizza. It was pita bread with tomatoes and melted cheese. Talal’s was where I first ate hummus and tabouli and falafel. The hummus was served on a flat plate. In the middle was sesame oil and around the top of the hummus was a ring of red cayenne pepper. I used to dip my bread in the oil and scoop up the peppered hummus. I still eat my hummus that way, with the red pepper. There was one Chinese restaurant way out of Accra, a one cedi ride which was about the highest cab fare we’d ever pay. It had an outside eating area. Going there was a treat because of the cost and we weren’t often in Accra. The restaurant was across the street from the Russian Embassy. The food was different from the Chinese food I ate at home. On later trips, I’d eat Chinese food in other countries and find the food was different everywhere from country to country. I ate Ghanaian foods all the time: t-zed, fufu, kenkey, which I never liked, kelewele, which I loved, yam, grasscutter and other foods I didn’t want identified. I ate chickens I bought live and beef of dubious age and condition: unsanitary was a given. I bought food along the road and never gave thought as to its origin. I drank water with floaties, the name we gave to bits of stuff floating in the bottles which once held beer.

After Ghana, I always tried local foods on any trip. I ate all sorts of vegetables and meats. In some countries, the less I knew the better the food tasted. I’ll try almost anything now. Innards, however, are not among them. I tried tongue once and once was enough. It was creepy looking served on a bed of lettuce as if somebody was under the table sticking his tongue out at me. I ate Rocky Mountains oysters and once was enough.

I scoff sometimes at people who won’t try new foods or old foods they didn’t like as kids, who look and never taste. They are missing the most amazing experiences: different spices and herbs, strange ingredients and foods with unknown origins. I’m glad to be a food junkie.

“Food should be fun.”

January 10, 2012

This morning I had to make a quick run to the grocery store to pick up my chili ingredients. My friends are coming over for chili, cornbread and some after dinner games. Right now the chili is happily bubbling ever so slightly on the stove. I’ll make the cornbread later then set the table and put out the fixings. I don’t like beans so my chili has no beans. You purists may cringe but my house, my chili!

I wish it were colder as I always think of chili as one of those warm you up hearty sort of meals. It is 45° and a beautiful day.

We never ate chili when I was a kid. My father was a meat and potatoes guy, and that’s what we ate for dinner most nights though my mother did add a vegetable or two. Spaghetti was about as exotic as my father’s dinner ever got and even that was a bit gross. He ate his spaghetti with stewed tomatoes on top, the way his mother, the worse cook in the world, used to make it. My mother made regular spaghetti with a meat sauce for herself and us. My father also had other strange tastes. He wouldn’t eat garlic except on garlic bread with his shrimp scampi. I used to cook a roast pork and hide the garlic slices in slits on the sides of the roast. He loved it until he caught my mother doing the same thing. She took out the garlic. Once I cooked the potatoes in the same pan as I had mushrooms and decided to leave the small pieces of mushroom to give the potato a different flavor. The mashed potatoes were a bit gray. My dad wanted to know why. I told them they were Eastham potatoes. He accepted my story and ate them happily even though he didn’t like mushrooms.

My father’s eyes served as his taste buds. If it didn’t look good, he wouldn’t eat it. No matter how much coaxing we did, he just wouldn’t try newe foods. I remember once we were eating hommos, and he mentioned it looked like wallpaper paste. Nope, he never did try it.

My uncle had a Korean wife and she cooked once for my family. My father ate only the food which looked a litttle like fried won tons with a filling. That looked familiar to him so he figured it was worth a try. The rest was way out of his comfort zone.

I tried to get my parents to visit me in Ghana. I never thought about the food. I just wanted them to see where I lived and how wonderful Ghana was. Thinking it over now, I guess my father would have been fine at breakfast with his eggs and toast, but he would have had chicken every single night, especially if he had come shopping with me. I’m laughing now at the idea of my father using his hand to pull off a chunk of t-zed, dip it in his soup bowl then eat it. Nope, it never would have happened.

“Visitor’s footfalls are like medicine; they heal the sick.”

November 1, 2011

This morning it was dark when I heard the blasted alarm ring. All of a sudden I flashed back to those working days when I got up at 5 or 5:15 every day. It was a daymare. This morning, though, it was so I could get Francisca to the bus stop to catch the bus to the airport. Her five-day visit finished in a flash.

Last night I had more trick or treaters than I can remember in years, and Francisca came to the door every time so she could see all the costumes. She was also the official dog holder as Gracie was more than willing to join any of the groups of kids. Gracie was sporting her new Halloween collar, a gift from my friend Clare. She looked quite festive in orange and black with a row of pumpkins, ghosts and witches circling her neck. I wore my wizard’s hat which played Ghouls Just Want to Have fun as the tip of the cap moved back and forth in time. I had bought Francisca a small witch’s hat as a surprise and she wore it all evening.

The house still smells of last night’s dinner, the leftover FraFra meal from Sunday. It was even more delicious last night than the first time. Watching Francisca eat was like being back in Ghana. She used her hand and scooped everything including the rice. I’m good with the t-zed, but I’m not so good with the jollof rice. I don’t tend to get it in enough of a ball, and it all falls apart before I can eat it. Ghanaians eat the bones, and Francisca finished off the Guinea fowl bones while I ate more than my share of the leftover meat. Gracie got the skin and, believe me, giving it to her was a sacrifice on my part.

The day is dark and cloudy and has nothing whatsoever to commend it. It feels damp. I sat and waited with Francisca until the bus came as Africans are not lovers of the cold. She bundles up for any temperature below 70°.

It seemed so wonderfully strange to have one of my students here. Never would I have envisioned it when last I saw them in 1971. Francisca’s elder sister Bea will be in Canada soon for her daughter’s wedding, and Francisca is helping Bea to get a visa to visit the US after the wedding and is hoping that she and Bea can visit. What an amazing gift that would be for me.

“The length of a frog can only be determined after it dies.”

October 29, 2011

Today has been nothing but rain and more rain. We went to Hyannis and purchased most of the ingredients we need for tomorrow’s dinner then got the rest of the ingredients here in Dennis. I even bought South African wine, keeping with the theme of course.

Our ride yesterday was down 6A to Orleans then back to Dennis on 28. It gave Francisca views of the older Cape and of the small towns and villages. She said that calling them villages made her feel quite at home. I felt like a tour guide explaining the differences in architectural design but was hard-pressed to answer some of her questions like why is it called Dennisport when it isn’t a port and did they run out of names and just add port even if the town wasn’t near the ocean. We stopped for lunch at the Land-Ho in Orleans then had dinner at home.

American food is far too bland for her.  Food should burn the tongue, gums and the outside of the mouth. Tonight Francisca covered her meatloaf with chopped jalapenos and said it wasn’t even hot at all. I remembered the light soup I ate my first day on the road in Ghana and how I had to stop eating because my mouth was burning from the pepper. The heat factor, the hotter the better, determines how tasty a dish is to a Ghanaian.

Francisca refuses to call me anything except Miss Ryan. We are only 6 years apart but to her I am her teacher, her mentor and her mother.

Francisca is afraid of dogs and Gracie has been her charming self, barking for attention and following poor Francisca who is doing her best to discipline the dog and make her sit. Gracie right now is in the kitchen keeping Francisca company as she preps for dinner.

It doesn’t seem like it has been forty years since since we last spoke. It seems like only yesterday.

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure”

September 14, 2011

I know it is Wednesday, my day off from Coffee, but I thought I’d post a short entry today to keep up the suspense for tomorrow’s episode of Kat’s Travels to Africa.

This morning I woke up at six so my body is beginning to adjust to US time.  I went outside on the deck as I usually do just to get the feel of the morning. It seemed chilly to me, damp from the morning dew. It was and is still quiet with only the birds greeting the day. I saw a grey squirrel at one of the feeders, but I haven’t been home long enough to wish for a weapon.

Let me tell you about mornings in Ghana, especially in Bolga where I spent five days. The air is cool, and this time of year, the rainy season, there is a small breeze. I was awake by 6 and usually went outside to see the beginning of the day. Smoke rose from fires, and I could smell the wood charcoal.  I watched carts being pulled and pushed by small boys on their way to market. Women carried market goods on their heads as they walked along the sides of the streets. I could hear a mix of voices, conversations in FraFra, horns blowing as cars, mostly taxis, made their way up the street. The horn is an official symbol of Ghana or at least it seemed that way to me. Not moving for a nanosecond on a green light meant horns up and down the row were going to be beeped in impatience. I heard a few of those. I could see women sitting in front of the fires stirring huge pots with metal spoons. They were making soup for their morning T-Zed, tuo zaafi, a thick porridge made from millet flour which is eaten by tearing off a chunk, always with your right hand, and dipping it into a soup. In restaurants they bring a bowl of water and some soap so you can wash your hand before and after. I had some for dinner one night with a light soup and some chicken. It was in Ghana I learned to like okra, even with all that slime, but I never did become a morning T-Zed eater. I always had eggs, toast and instant coffee with evaporated milk. While I was in Bolga, I bought fruit so I could have a bowl of cut fruit instead of the eggs. I tried the eggs fried, scrambled and in an omelet, but the eggs tasted exactly the same no matter how they were cooked. The fruits were sweet and delicious.

I was usually dressed and finished with my breakfast by 8. I’d figure out my day and call Thomas, my driver, to come so we could begin our day’s adventure.

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