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Opinions Sun, 9 Jan 2011

Oyibo don kill us with bread now!

One man’s meat is another man’s poison

Old African saying





The gastronomic inclinations of many an African, matched against the dietary


provisions at many international – non African – conferences make for interesting


analysis.


By and large, it would appear that if the combined views of the Ghanaians, Nigerians


and Ugandans are anything to go by, the African diet is by far richer in spice and


style. The European diet on the other hand is …well, anything but spicy. Actually,


dour and colorless would be more like it- a wicked combination that has conspired to


rob many an African of belly-full enjoyment at these events.





Ojigwe arrived weary and hungry from Lagos.





“Can I get some food to eat?” he thundered.





“Well, you could get some bread … a tuna sandwich and a drink…”


Ojigwe is outraged. “We want real food o, madam. What kind bread be dis?!”


For one invitation only session, I am asked to specify the dietary needs of the


Ghanaian delegation. I mischievously opt to go to town with a wish list. I tell


conference organizers that my people have a preference for fufu, ebunubunu soup,


grass cutter meat, snails and dry fish. If however, it is only waakye, talia, wele,

fish and egg with “please make the pepper plenty, small”, we are quite willing to


compromise!


We arrive at the event salivating in glorious anticipation. A departure from this


bread staple – finally! Bread in the morning, bread in the afternoon, bread in the


evening. Soft bread, hard bread, extra hard bread. Brown bread, white bread, cream


bread, yellow bread, cake like bread. Bread with jam, with cheese and with soup or


what looks like it!





We are disappointed! Instead of the rich menu proposed earlier, they start with oval


bread and then follow it with something that looks like meat pie wrapped around some


bokor bokor leaves. And then, there is the salmon with the so called risotto. And


then dissert – some sweet something to be eaten with a baby spoon or a fork. A look


at your neighbor’s plate makes you sadder for him; multi colored leaves, leaves,


leaves!


Na leaves we go chew?!





We in Africa don’t have time for this poco a poco eating. Small bread here, small


soup there, a little cake and straw berry ice cream there! The big bang approach is


to be preferred. Come to Africa and see something; we like it hot, spicy and


massive! No banana afterwards! If anything, the banana will precede the real meal in


an attempt to tamper justice with mercy. Why spoil the soft, hot ewokple against

some properly pepperized and gingerized tilapia in raw pepper sauce with strawberry


ice cream afterwards?


At their deceptive best, the organizers advertize a lunch reception. Again, hopes


are high. And again, the hopes are thwacked. First of all, it is a standing event,


further dissipating the little energy left. The diet is a mixture of drinks and


flour—based preparations of different varieties and some biscuits. Drinks are served


in small plastic cups. Small poverty-stricken cups! Do they know the size of the


‘cup’ that big brother Wedg uses to take his morning dzogbo in Dzodze? Surely this


is a joke called lunch!


Midway, a beautiful African sister whispers, “Is this all, or is lunch now about to


be served?”


It is what we might refer to in Ghana as small chops. With small chops for lunch


and dinner, nkitinkiti inevitably sets in with the approach of night. In your room,


you cautiously approach the bowl of groundnuts, strategically located by hotel


staff for your nocturnal edification. Never mind that you have always viewed the


ground nuts with great suspicion. Should you or should you not? It is tricky. Will


the cost be on the house or will the merciless capitalists have their say and their


way? You twirl the bowl round and round and finally decide against consumption,


your hunger pangs notwithstanding.





In the morning, the verdict comes in. Your worst fears are confirmed! The hotel has

billed you four good Euros for that miserable bowl of ground nuts that you only


touched in admiration and in exchange for which you could have had two big jars of


the stuff back home. In the ensuing conversations, it is revealed that the hotel


has some device that monitors touch. You touch and it translates to “you have


eaten.” In other places, we are told of how every time you open the fridge, you are


automatically billed on the assumption that you are drinking your head off!


Really? Is someone spying on us?


Gastronomic suffering is however not equitably distributed, I discover. Ample


evidence abounds of many including some honorable Ministers who travel armed to the


teeth with shito, tinned fish and gari. For such people, when others complain about


the pediatric doses, they simply smile in mock sympathy. Your pain is not their pain


and your suffering not theirs. So famous has the shito become that some African


compatriots have been known to exclaim “Where is that black thing you Ghanaians


always carry everywhere?” Of course this would be in a dire moment of need with the


said fellow African salivating for a piece of the action—“that black thing” that


will add that sharp zing that is woefully absent!





After three days of this poverty-stricken existence, the sons of men and the


daughters of Eve begin to lose weight. You long for the motherland. One more week in


Oyibo land and you will be dead meat. There is a mass resolution. Oyibo is killing


us softly! We must go back to sweet Africa and to colorful meals. We dream of eba

and ogborno soup spiced with crayfish. We salivate for tuo zaafi and bito soup or


with ayoyo floating in ground nut soup. This is real tasty piping hot soup, not that


acrylic preparation that looks like mashed off -white chalk and tastes like half


cooked mpotompoto.


To worsen matters, it is dispensed from a machine! How can you cook and supply real


pepper soup from a machine and not expect us to be suspicious? Totally unacceptable!





You can never eat fufu with this concoction they call soup! My mother will be


greatly scandalized!





God bless African cuisine and may he reveal to Europeans, the delights of life


beyond bread. As for me, in twelve days, I have had enough bread to last me a


lifetime! A final plea; when we do have visitors, let us have mercy and give them


real food to eat. They are really suffering! If not, why will that Japanese I met at


the East Legon joint swallow the sizable omo tuo balls in two morsels only and


promptly wash it down thereafter with a generous helping of palm nut soup?





Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi