Monday, July 17, 2006

kelilangε soup

This morning I woke up late; I asked Megan to wake me early, around 5, so I could wash some of my clothes (I had a daunting pile of laundry ahead of me) but I spent a mostly sleepless night with a splitting headache and five o’clock rolled around just as I had gotten to sleep.
So I got ready, took the last dose of my malaria medication, a hefty whopping dose of “Tylenol”, or what surmises for it here, and decided to go to town.
Thursday is my 2nd workshop, and I had to run some errands in town; buy some pens and markers, interview a few NGOs for my District Food Security Network meeting next week, and maybe pick up some fruit.
Mme. Janet had mentioned to me, passingly, that the Salaga-wura, the Grand Chief of Salaga and surrounding areas, had passed away last night. The funeral would be today, so don’t expect anyone to be in the office. She went off to see the doctor, and I wrote some letters and left to go to town.
Now, I’m pretty weak. That malaria really took it out of me, and as of yesterday morning, I could barely walk up and down our house compound. I’m getting better, but still – so riding a bike to town wouldn’t be hard, but riding it back, uphill was going to be difficult. I had some pretty important things to do, so I thought it’d be worth it.

The first thing that greeted me as I was riding down Kpembe Road to town, was the graveyard. It was expectedly quite full of people, but then there was also a large mob fighting angrily, and about 50 bicycles parked outside, some with dead chickens in the baskets and dead goats strapped to the back. Okay, I guess its just a custom I’m not familiar with. I ride on. I’m used to greeting a certain set of people on the way to town, some hairdressers I’m friends with, the man who sold me my bicycle, the people I buy limes from, the people at the Ghana Audit Service; today, they are absent, and their shops/places of work are closed…. Strange, its not a Sunday, and even then – mainly Muslim Salaga stays open. And then, I get into town. The shops are all boarded up – every single one. The street vendors? Gone. The roasted yam seller? Packed up. The stationary shop? Closed. Even the shoeshine man, even the pharmacy – everything is closed. Its mostly deserted, except now and again you meet clumps of people avidly discussing something – probably the Salaga-wura? He wasn’t murdered – I know there was an intense tribal war here a few years ago, but this has nothing to do with it, the man was sick, and kind of old. What is going on? So anyway, my NGOs are closed, the civil society group I was supposed to meet has left, so I turn back around to ride home, uphill.
I pass the graveyard again, still with the angry mob, and decide to try the post office – both to check if I have any mail (but no mail today, sadly) and to see if its open. I meet my friend Haroun who works there, and ask him the details. Apparently, some people decided to kill anyone and everyone’s animals (goats, chickens, sheep, cattle) as a gift/token/payment to the Salaga-wura. Without asking them. So random animals that were wandering Salaga were slaughtered and their owners are angry and somehow all the shops are closed. Okay… this is routine; the way things work here, you have to make at least 3 completely different plans for each day, because chances are, at least 2 become impossible somehow. Guess I’m staying home and working today.. I ride on, completely exhausted at this point, past droves of schoolchildren sent home early, stop by the drink seller who is the only person who dares to be open today (granted he is almost near the border of Kpembe, which has a different chief, the Kpembe-wura) and grab a pineapple Fanta. Drinking it furtively, lest anyone see me so openly (possibly?) disrespecting the custom, I rush home.
So, my family is utterly surprised at the turn of events; it is not customary for everything to close, especially government institutions such as the schools, and Megan is home early. Krofiye is not, as her school is in Kpembe.
This is when we realise that there is no food. Not “there is nothing cooked for us to eat” – this is customary, we have to cook lunch. But that there are no ingredients from which to prepare lunch. And Mme. Janet, when she returns from the doctor’s will not bring any – because all the shops are closed. So my sisters are hungry, Sister Helena who is a weaving apprentice at our house is also there and we don’t know what to do. She decides to visit Kpembe to see if some friends of hers have any okru or okra. Nope.
Meanwhile, I’m starving. The two bananas I’ve had in the morning plus that Fanta is doing nothing for me.. So we decide to cook. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’. Krofiye has returned home, and both her and Sadia think I’m crazy, and that “Ati” how they call Mme. Janet, will be angry. Megan is sick and goes to lie down. Oh well, all the more adventure. So we scout the house and fridge – its decided, I will make rice with some stew. Seeing as how I don’t know how to make any of the “dough” like banku or tuo zafi – T.Z … So, the stew. The fridge has the scrapings on the bottom of a can of tinned tomatoes, some “garden eggs” or yellow small eggplants (about the size of an apricot each), and about 6 tomatoes. The pantry has plenty of onions and 3 cloves of garlic, and some weird spices that do not look or smell familiar. Here goes…
I start the charcoal fire and start the girls, my “assistants” grinding and chopping while I carefully remove the 34635457457 insects from the garden eggs. An hour and a million sceptical looks later, the stew is finished, the rice is cooked (with spaghetti – everybody here puts spaghetti randomly in things and calls it “macaronia” or “Italia”…), Mme. Janet has arrived home and not only approves but LIKES the stew! Today, I’m proud. If only my mother were here so that she could have definitive proof that I can not only cook, but I can cook while beating away chickens and with random ingredients. And vegetarian to boot. Ha!
Now that I’ve eaten (and it was tastilicious, I assure you!), I’m back to work, making my workshop plan and drawing flipcharts on “Results Based Management: Valuing Results Over Activities in the Field” for Thursday. Incidentally, Thursday is also the pivotal Ghana vs. USA game and I have my fingers crossed that it will not be during my workshop…

As follows is my recipe for “kelilangε soup” – kelilangε is Gonja for “preparing for a funeral feast” and its my own little irony that in dying, the Salaga-wura hasn’t let anyone feast as our stores are all closed.

3 tomatoes, preferably ground on a rock, or if you’re lucky, in a blender
1 half tin of tomatoes
5 small eggplants, or any random vegetable you can find, especially weird ones
3 small onions chopped
1 large onion, also ground on a rock
3 cloves of garlic, see above
1 plantain, chopped into small circles
1 finger length of ginger
1 handful of random spices, but not anything you wouldn’t put into soup like cinnamon or nutmeg
2 tbsps of soy flour…at least I think it was soy, or maybe it was maize?

Grind the 3 tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, spices, 1 large onion, and the ginger on a giant flat rock. Or in a blender. If using the flat rock, wash the rock first and have a small girl handy to kick away the stupid chickens are that are so disgusting they eat onions, festering feet wounds, and meat. Remove all insects from the eggplants, and chop into small pieces. Add the chopped onions, the ground up garlic, onion, and spices, a small bit of oil, and the eggplants and cook for a while. When fanning the charcoal, try not to burn your legs from the sparks. Add the ground up tomatoes, the tinned tomatoes and water. Boil for a while. Add the plantains and more water and boil. Add the flour and stir until thick. Make the rice mixed with the spaghetti, mix and serve hot to starving household members (and self). Oh yeah, salt, add salt somewhere in there.


At 12:51 a.m., Anonymous Shelley said...

sounds like you're improving your cooking skills!!! Your stew making is better than your popcorn :P

PS: You know I'll never let the popcorn thing go ahahaha


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