Monday, September 20, 2010

To Market to Market to Buy... a What?

If you are expecting to hear about a wide variety of exotic fruit that you have never heard of or imagined before you are going to be disappointed. Are they the same? Absolutely not, but it is a subtle, almost tricky the way fruit in Ghana tried to be like everything I already knew about—but not.

Let me walk you through the bargaining process of the market. You either go on Thursday’s to the Wiamoase market, or you hold out and go with Christiana on Tuesdays. Having a native with you makes bargaining a lot easier. You get fair prices on cabs as well as your supplies. Each week we would go to the market with a list of items we needed to find. On most trips Christiana would disappear for about twenty minutes doing who knows what, and during that time we were most likely to explore different fruit options.

First we come to “anka,” the oranges, or what you would think of as an orange. The main difference is that these oranges have green skin. I think I actually said “Oh brave new world” when I first saw one. Just when you thought you had a grip on that, turns out there are two different types of oranges with green skin. There are some with red fruit on the inside, which are called white oranges (yeah, I know), and the orange colored fruit ones are called red oranges. It took me awhile before I learned how to properly eat the Ghanaian oranges. You shave off the outside with a machete, careful not to pierce the inside layers, cut off the top, and then squeeze out the juice. They are too fibrous to eat. If you try to bite into them you will have a half an hours worth of flossing that night and juice dripping down your elbows. I also learned that the locals do not “take,” or eat oranges for breakfast because they believe it gives people stomach ulcers.

Next let me introduce "paya," the pear—except once again, it is actually not a pear. It is an avocado. There is nothing particularly different about this fruit other than the fact that they are much larger in Ghana and spoil much quicker. We used to use it as a spread to add some flavor to our bread for lunches.

Of all of the fruit and vegetables at the market, garden eggs, or "nnuadewa," were the most exotic. They were yellow and white, shaped like a cucumber, and tasted like something between a sprout and a tomato. Grace, my host sister, really liked to make them into a garden egg stew. I preferred them in a red tomato stew.

One of the market items we always had to pick up were “Pepe’s.” Half way through my field study I realized that they are called peppers, or "mako" in Twi. Pepe’s are something between a red chili pepper and a red bell pepper. They also come in green, but they are really important for spicing up a dish. Ghanaians like their food hot.

My favorite fruit at the market were the mangoes. Unfortunately these went out of season by the end of my stay in Ghana. I learned about two different types of mangoes. There were small bite sized yellow ones that were impossible to eat without making an oil spill of a mess, and some larger green ones that were found in the northern region and in Cape Coast. The last mango I had on the mid semester retreat was the best mango I had ever eaten in my life.

And for the biggest conundrum, shopping for bananas, "kwadu" and plantains, "borode." To this day I could not pick out which one is which, but plantains are supposed to be bigger, more square shaped, and taste nothing like their banana look-alike. Bananas come in all shapes and sizes and have a much sweeter taste in Ghana. On a good day we could haggle a whole stick full of them for about 2 cedi (1.40 USD). Plantains on the other hand were used as a starch. When they were ripe the inside turned red. The plantain also has a lot of seeds inside, and when you boil it the water turns black. They were never my favorite fruit, but I did enjoy them in the traditional meal “Red Red.”

Another food known by a different name in Ghana is the yam, or "ampece." When people first told me I would be eating a lot of yams I had bad flashbacks to Thanksgiving and sweet potatoes. These are nothing like those. They look like giant roots or potatoes on steroids. They can be boiled or fried, and they were my favorite starch of all the dishes we had. They were very “heavy,” or filling, and were great with lots of oil and salt.


(Field Notes 13.18, 16.16,22.32, 27.35, 28.6, 43.8, 76.4, 88.7)

1 comment:

  1. trying to explain Ghanaian yams even now to my family back home in Canada is confusing... because all they know is the typical orange Thanksgiving food of sweet-potatoe :D

    Loved reading this, for sure able to identify with and laugh at the comments about each.