Posted tagged ‘yams’

“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.”

October 23, 2017

My back is a bit better. I can walk without holding on to anything. Yesterday was a sit on the couch day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the back aside. I have to go out today so I hope for the best.

I think I’ve used every adjective perfect to describe our weather of late. Think warm, sunny, deep blue sky and nearly breezeless. My house is again cooler than outside. In here it is sweatshirt weather. Outside is short sleeve weather.

My mother used to make fried dough for supper on Fridays, the no meat day. We’d all hang around the kitchen counter making sure we got our dough turn. My mother’s frying pan held three small or two big pieces of fried dough. She used to buy the dough at the supermarket. I remember it came in a blue and white box. We slathered butter and sprinkle salt on it. Fried dough was one of our favorite suppers.

We ate a lot of hamburger growing up, but my mother was a whiz at cooking hamburger so many different ways we never got tired of eating it. I still love meatloaf and American chop suey. She made spaghetti sauce with ground beef, another fake oriental dish of hamburger with water chestnuts and crispy chow mein on top,. The fall back was always  burgers. I love cheeseburgers.

My food in Ghana didn’t really vary a whole lot. We were lucky to live in the only area of the country which bred beef so we could always buy meat in the market. There was even a meat factory where we could buy some sort of tubular meat masquerading as a hot dog. The meat from the market was always tough. Only old cows were slaughtered. The meat was cooked in a broth like sauce with tomatoes and onions which tenderized the meat. I think we had that most nights though we also ate chicken, free range chickens because the chickens wandered all over the place all day but did came home to roost at night. We mostly ate mashed yams  but also had rice on occasion. Breaking teeth was a PC volunteer problem as the rice always had a few rocks. You needed to spend time cleaning it, but it was easier not to. When volunteers got together, food was always a topic of conversation.

Living alone means I don’t always make dinner. I improvise with whatever is in the fridge. I’m content with cheese and crackers or hummus and pita bread. I’m even happy with cereal. I do have meat in the freezer, heavy on the chicken, but I usually forget to take it out. Last night, though, I took out some Chinese sausage to defrost and I have some rice I can cook. That’s like a gourmet meal for me.

“You either get the point of Africa or you don’t. What draws me back year after year is that it’s like seeing the world with the lid off.”

August 14, 2016

Big surprise: today is hot, already 88˚, and combined with the 70% humidity it feels like 100˚. I was on the deck earlier checking the plants. They have to be watered again, but I’ll wait until later in the day hoping it will be cooler.

When I arrived in Ghana for Peace Corps training, I knew nothing about Africa. The books and mimeographed materials from Peace Corps didn’t do much in helping me understand where I was going. Knowing there were two seasons, rainy and dry, had me picturing what rainy and dry look like here, that was all I had for reference. Descriptions of Ghanaian culture were like excerpts from a geography book. I read about the different tribes and where they lived. The country was divided into regions, a bit like our states.

Before we left Philadelphia for Ghana, I found out I was going to be posted in the Upper Region, only a place on the map to me. The Upper Region spanned all the way across the whole top section of Ghana from east to west. I was to be posted in its capital, Bolgatanga.

When I went to Bolga for a week during training, it was the rainy season when everything is green, and the market is filled with all sorts of fruit and vegetables. I figured that would be Bolga all the time. I was totally wrong.

When training was over, I made my way home, to Bolga. I stopped overnight in Kumasi, about the halfway mark. I always added an overnight so I could visit friends along the way. The trip from Accra to Kumasi was a wonderful train ride. From Kumasi to Bolga was a bus or lorry ride, always hot and always crammed with people.

Bolga was still in the rainy season when I moved into my house. The rains stopped a month or two later. Everything dried. The ground split. Nothing stayed green. My lips and the heels of my feet split. I walked on tiptoes. I learned to take bucket baths. My meals never varied. Breakfast was two eggs cooked in groundnut oil and two pieces of toast. Lunch was fruit. Dinner was beef cooked in tomato broth, a necessity to make the meat tender, or chicken. Yams were the side dish, sometimes in a mash and sometimes cooked with the meat. I always drank water except in the morning when I drank instant coffee with canned milk.

I never minded the same meals or the dry season. I was astonished every day that I was  living in Africa. I loved Bolga whether rainy or dry. My friends and I would often look at the sky and say it looked like rain. That was a joke, and we never got tired of it. We knew the rain was months away. If we found something new in the market, it was cause for celebration. If we didn’t, it didn’t matter.

In about five weeks, I’ll be back home in Bolga.