On March 10, 2018, five African American culinarians took a journey with Ada Anagho Brown of Roots to Glory on a culinary tour of Ghana. For the first time, a DNA and heritage driven tour specifically for African Americans to reconnect with their Ghanaian and West African cultural and culinary roots commenced lasting nine days. We based this on journey on my book The Cooking Gene (HarperCollins 2017) This brief photo essay will give you a hint of what we experienced.
You know me but the rest of these beautiful people are (from the left), Kenyatta Ashford, Kezia Curtis, Josmine Evans, Harold Caldwell and Ada Anagho Brown. This was our first breakfast in Ghana, just an hour or so after landing.
Ghana has a pronounced culinary tradition based on the courtly cuisine of the Akan kingdoms, the Ewe diaspora and the Sudanic cultures of the north. Very similar to other West African foodways, Ghana’s foodways are much more cross-ethnic, and people enjoy the signature dishes of other peoples or ethnic groups while maintaining special pride in their regional delicacies.
Ghana is onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and hot hot hot peppers. It is snails and grass cutter rodents. It is 47 different types of leafy greens at the market. Ghana is kenkey, fufu, Banku, tuo zafi, omo tuo and Ghanaian style jollof or fried rice. Ghana is lots of smoked and fresh fish. Ghana is also hospitality, kindness, proverbial knowledge, cultural pride and spiritual power.
Ghana is 32% of my DNA and present in all four of my grandparents. I am a descendant of the Asante, Fante, Akyem, Ewe and ethnic groups from the North. I’m very proud to be part of the legacy of all if these peoples.
By our first afternoon we were cooking with the Ga people in Accra. We made fried fish and Ga style kenkey. Kenkey is a ball of fermented cornmeal dough that is eaten with stews, sauces and soups. Along with fufu (pounded and smoothed) yam, cassava or plantain and gari, Banku and tuo zafi and rice….every starch is pretty much eaten with soups, sauces, stews and proteins. The Ghanaian seasoning par excellence is shitor, a brown long simmered hot pepper sauce with tomato and onion.
Shitor starts with various annum and chinense peppers.
Smoked fish are like the side meat of West Africa.
Basil is called “dancing chicken” because it is deemed indispensable with chicken soup.
In this picture alone you can see hot ground pepper, dawadawa or locust bean paste, kuku…a baobab based leaf thickener similar to filé and Chichinga—(Ghanaian kabob) spice and ground indigenous African spices like hwentia and alligator pepper.
Hot peppers are called ma-ko. They are ground in a clay bowl called an asanka:
Eating small fried fish with kenkey and fresh shitor paste.
Without palm oil….the rest is for naught….
Yes that’s palm oil. Key to much of West African foodways. From the oil palm which gives thatch, wine, vinegar, palm cabbage, wood and medicines. To tropical Africa it is the tree of life.
We look forward to sharing more of our journey with you in future posts. We will be making a yearly trip to West Africa on a culinary tour. Next year we are going to Benin! Be sure to get your copy of The Cooking Gene today!