Groundnut soup

Market day, Cheraponi, Ghana

Market day, Cheraponi, Ghana

Yendi, Ghana—May 15, 2014–At the 7a’s restaurant in Yendi, I ate groundnut soup with banku (ban-coo), made of fermented cornmeal that you tear pieces from to dip into the soup. There was a perfectly fried whole Tilapia fish in the bowl of soup, too. Our table was in deep shade under teak trees and awnings. I sat enchanted. And full. Portion sizes are large in Ghana.

We stayed at the Extra Quality Lodge for eight nights. The décor was plastic flowers and framed pictures of game. To get there, CRS driver Joe, wove between pot holes so large that they, and all drivers before them, had taken to driving off-road to make it through. You passed the Chelsea Shopping Center for General Provisions (a 3×5 stall on the corner) and arrived at the gates. Inside, tiles cooled our feet and a garden grew along the wall. Power went out frequently, and with it the water since it had an electric pump, but otherwise, a good place.

The training was 1-1/2 hours away in Chereponi village. After that, for two days, we went a little further out to Gballo, Jappa, and Sangbana villages to conduct the surveying. Mostly, it was very bad road after a rain when large lakes would appear where the track once was. Joe, cool-headed, drove through, around and beside the trouble areas. I kept picturing dropping into a water-camouflaged pothole and never emerging, or least not emerging with an axle. Our shoulders slid the width of the back seat with each rocking motion.

What I learned in Yendi and Chereponi: market day was worth a stop. Goods, foods, grains. It was all there. Soybeans in Chereponi were consolidated from various farmers by a woman who sold it in large bags. We stooped to take a closer look: lots of small stones and dirt mixed in the soy. The rice and millet looked cleaner. The problem? The threshing and winnowing was not always done on tarps. Odd bits got mixed in.

Shea nuts were sold to eat as snacks. Some were cracked further open for the butter, but many here were just peeled back for the slightly sweet layer between the nut and the skin. As we walked through the market, donut-like dough was frying, a lamb was being butchered, guinea fowl were expertly pushed into baskets to be carried away. We bought fabrics, mostly because I could not resist. The market was crowded, noisy, and bustling. A colorful, colorful world.


About ninafurstenau

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau teaches a Food and Wine Writing for the University of Missouri Science and Agriculture Journalism program and the MU School of Journalism School. Her book, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland was the winner of the MFK Fisher Book Award and Grand Prize Award for culinary/culture writing and designated as a Kansas Notable Book. She has also written Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine, celebrating Missouri foodways. Her essay, "And Then There Was Rum Cake," appears in the 2017 anthology, Pie & Whiskey: Writer's Under the Influence of Butter and Booze. Ms. Furstenau was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia from 1984 to 1986 and then began working life as a journalist and publisher/editor of three construction magazines beginning in 1987. Ms. Furstenau and her husband launched and published these magazines and two others until 2001. She was a month-long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, in 2008.
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