Rich local foods on the brink of extinction

Wed, 9 Sep 2015 Source: Vicky Wireko

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It is the season for Homowo, the festival of the people of Accra. I always look forward to this festival for one reason – the tasty kpoikpoi and fresh palm nut soup that one gets to eat.

Luckily, I get the opportunity to taste one of my favourite local meals with invitations almost every year to a Homowo lunch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I attended one such delicious lunch where my favourite local meal, kpoikpoi, was served.

Kpoikpoi meal

Kpoipoi, a healthy steamed maize meal served with fresh palm nut soup is delicious beyond all tastes. Yet, we see it only once in a year while unhealthy fried rice and all the other stuff that go with it are presented to us every day.

Casting my mind back, some of the local foods that some of us grew up with, healthy as they are, seem to becoming extinct. We do not serve them that often as part of family meals anymore. Sampling the Homowo meal recently has drawn my attention to all the healthy local foods that we have abandoned. Instead, we have substituted them with assorted meals that sometimes add little health value.

Oto meal

One local meal that some friends and I treated ourselves to recently is oto with peanuts and avocado pear. It was a great meal, well presented, balanced and healthy. oto can be made from semi-ripe plantain or yam, boiled and mashed. One can season it with onions and pepper and then mix it with a bit of palm oil to give it colour. The yam oto is a meal used on festive occasions such as festivals. it is prepared specially for the celebration of birthdays, prepared for puberty rites and some other ceremonial events.

Sometimes when one comes out of a difficult situation such as a prolonged illness or an accident, oto and eggs are served to bless their souls.I have been wondering why the many local eateries and restaurants do not serve oto even though it is simple to make.I even wonder if oto is known by the present generation because it is not a meal that the average family will serve.

Hotel menus

I can imagine patronage by curious local and foreign individuals who may want to sample certain local dishes should a restaurant based purely on indigenous and local meals be opened and named as such. It would be a Sunday after Church joint for families to gradually introduce their children and grandchildren to lost tastes.

I must give credit to a local hotel that I visited out of Accra recently. As part of their brunch spread one day, they served mashed cocoyam commonly known in Akan as mpotompoto. It was very well spiced and delicious with dried fish and a touch of palm oil.

I enjoyed the meal so much, complemented with locally prepared hibiscus drink and watched on admiringly as some foreign guests also tasted the mpotompoto. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian guests went in for the toasts and sausages and omelettes.I have since tried the recipe and hope to go back to it every now and then.

Other indigenous dishes

There are many other local preparations that I can remember from childhood days. When one looks around, all such menus have given way to others from foreign lands. Occasionally at events, one would find mouth-watering dishes like aprapransa, abomu, and ofam on buffet tables but that is about it.

If we are keen on promoting cultural tourism and food is seen to play an important role in culture, then we have a lot of work to do to create and generate interest in our indigenous foods and also get our younger generation to like them too.

We truly have rich varieties of local foods.Luckily, catering schools are multiplying but are we teaching the preparation of local foods and promoting them on ceremonial tables as well? We should not seek to place foreign menus over and above our own which are by far more nutritious and easy to make.

Columnist: Vicky Wireko