Fourth in our Things I Like About Ghana serial.

Overall, I complain of Ghanaian food in many ways. Much of it is very similar. It uses approximately eight times more oil than I can stomach. I’m not clear on how Ghanaians survived before the invention and widespread manufacture of tomato paste. Salt is thrown in by the overflowing handful. Everything has meat in it, and meat is butchered without any scrutiny or selectiveness. Vegetables are only served when they are cooked beyond recognition. Starch runneth over and pretty much everything is spicy beyond standard American tolerance, even as my tolerance for spice has greatly increased in the last few years.

But there are many things I love, as well. Local food is made from fresh ingredients (less the tomato paste), not processed. Portions are generous, and things you eat were generally cooked on that day, or at worst within the last three. There *are* plenty of vegetables, which you must acknowledge even when you long for something lighter and fresher. And you get to eat it all with your hand.

My favorite things to eat in Ghana are rice and vegetable stew (vegetable stew as made by Joyce, that is; what I’ve had elsewhere or cooked by others isn’t nearly as good); omo tuo (rice balls) with groundnut soup (groundnuts are peanuts; I now know how to cook this and fully intend to when I return to the States); kenkey (deliciously fermented corn dough) and stew; red-red (black-eyed peas with gari–toasted ground cassava that tastes strangely like cheese–served with fried plantains); and tuo zaafi (TZ), a strange, pounded millet dough, with soup. With the sometime exception of rice and stew, all of these are eaten with your hand.

Your right hand; eating with your left hand is completely taboo. And I’m often criticized for the fact that I chew foods that come in clumps, like banku or fufu or TZ, rather than just taking a pinch and swallowing, and my pinches are seen as too small and the shares of soup I pour over them too stingy. But nevertheless, as long as you wash, there’s a certain joy to just sitting down and plunging your hand into your food. I think I’m really going to miss it.