I have one week to go here in Ghana. There have been a few on my short bucket list of things to do here in Ghana before my departure. I know I'll come back here again in the next year or two but there are some things I need to take advantage of before I head back to the U.S.
I need to pound some fufu, or at least try to learn how to do it and get a feel for the giant mortar and pestle. I actually bought one and it's in a shipping container headed to the U.S. I'm very excited to have it back in the states. So back to fufu. For those who don't know what fufu is, it's a mix of cassava and plantains. There are other versions but we'll deal with this one. It's first boiled then pounded together to form a dough that you eat with soup. I really like fufu but it's not for everyone. I've been enjoying fufu mainly because it's served with a variety of soups from the region which range from palm nut, ground nut, light soup, pepper soup and a lot of variations and combinations of all of these along with some meat and fish. I will miss it.
I made my last trip up to Mampong to visit with my friends Alex, Wisdom and Kwame. I went with my friend Kodjo who's been helping me a lot with various things in Accra. He's been the go to guy for logistics around here and he's also a good friend. Anyway, I found out during our trip to the Western Region that Wisdom was a good cook. I had heard that he knew how to make fufu, which is not very common for a Ghanaian male, so I had to see for myself and join in.
The process in making fufu is pretty simple in terms of process. You boil some cassava and plantains then you pound them until they get to a nice thick consistency like bread dough. Sounds simple enough but there's an art to this along with some fufu pounding etiquette. Here are the rules of engagement. When pounding fufu, you have the option of doing it yourself or with a partner. The process requires pounding and folding so it's faster and easier if you work with a partner. When you have two people of equal status like two friends, you pick your position based on how you work together.
Typically the lead position is with the person who is seated folding the fufu as it thickens. When I say lead position, it's the one who's in control. In most households each person will do the pounding their own fufu but the one who does the most pounding is usually the son. Typically the mother never pounds the fufu unless she is on her own. The dad will do the pounding in any combination unless the son is around. If there is a male and female involved, the male typically pounds and the females fold. When it comes to husband and wife, it's seen as romantic to see the husband pound while the wife folds. In middle class homes where they have help the hired help will pound the fufu. If they have a security guard, then the security guard will pound as the hired help will fold.
Pounding takes some work. It requires rhythm so the person folding can time things as not to have their fingers smashed by the pestle. Notice the GoPro camera on the pestle. It took some shoe laces, cable and packaging tape to finally stabilize it on there for my video sequences.
Pounding takes strength, stamina and most importantly good rhythm. I worked the pestle for a bit, mostly for the photo but mainly to get a sense of what was involved. Not long after this photo, I let the experienced professionals take the helm. We got a lot of funny comments from the neighbors when they saw us doing this. It's not often they see an Obruni pounding their lunch. We joked that Alex and I would start and American Chop Bar. We offered them fufu for a good price. We didn't get any offers but we had a good laugh.
Once the fufu was ready, we sat down to a fabulous meal of fufu and pepper soup. The fufu had a nice consistency, not too thick and not too soft. The soup had just the right amount of spice and the goat was nice and tender. After all the fufu and soup your body wants to shut down for a nice long nap. We had the itis.
After the meal, Kodjo and I drove back home to Accra felling very satisfied in the food and also the experience of making fufu. I hope I can replicate the process at home when my mortar and pestle arrive in the coming months after I return to Oregon. I'm sure it will take a lot of trial and error. I'll strengthening my biceps while thinking about my time with great friends in Ghana sharing great food.