In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene considers the contact of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for individuals to consume the humble cassava as the cost of wheat soars all over the entire world.
There are two principal root greens in West Africa – cassava and yam.
Cassava is out there all yr spherical, it is low-priced and is acknowledged, or to place it effectively, was acknowledged as foodstuff for the inadequate.
The other popular just one is yam, which Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe famously described as “the king of crops”.
The yam harvest is awaited eagerly. In fact, specific rites are carried out right before the new yam can be eaten, and we put on our greatest clothing to rejoice the vegetable.
Cassava is, at best, each day foods and made use of to be the frequent fare of the very poor and servants.
I take note that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is urging his people today to change to a diet regime of cassava as an antidote to the rocketing cost of wheat during the present-day globally cost of living disaster.
“If there is no bread, take in muwogo [cassava],” he reported.
Mr Museveni’s feedback have triggered controversy, with critics declaring he has no actual prepare to deal with the price of residing disaster.
Above right here in Ghana, we had a finance minister who, way back again in the 1960s, tried to justify a proposed enhance in taxes by indicating the weak would not be influenced for the reason that they ate gari – a preferred granular flour designed from processed cassava.
At the time, gari was regarded mostly as foods for the inadequate and the minister designed the stage that if you included drinking water to 50 percent a cup of gari, it would swell to offer enough foodstuff for a few men and women. It was low-cost and filling.
The minister was also earning the position, without saying it aloud, that weak individuals didn’t try to eat bread or rice, or other these kinds of extravagant imported foodstuff. This was largely real at the time.
Several years afterwards, we had a minister of state who resolved mounting foodstuff rates by indicating men and women could constantly try to eat kokonte, which he cited as a low cost different to rice and other imported foodstuff.
Kokonte is created from cassava flour and, like all matters cassava, was known as foodstuff eaten by the inadequate.
President Museveni built the level that he ate cassava. In other phrases, nobody should be ashamed of taking in, or viewed to be feeding on, cassava considering the fact that it was now presidential foods.
These days, the drought-resistant crop is also touted as acquiring wellness advantages – cassava root is gluten-absolutely free, higher in vitamin C and rich in copper.
I you should not know if cassava remains branded as foodstuff for the lousy in Uganda, but in Ghana, we have occur a extensive way.
Acquire gari. It shed its graphic as food items for servants and the inadequate when it turned the indispensable companion of all boarding school students.
They go to school with a bag of gari in their “chop box”. The various meals they make with gari in dormitories are named soakings.
It really is a fast and easy course of action, demands no cooking or microwave oven for heating – you place some gari in a cup, insert drinking water, sugar and milk, combine it and which is it. You have the most tasty and filling snack.
The savoury alternate is additional well known and will involve taking about a cup of dry gari, sprinkling a bit of water on it to soften it, introducing a tablespoonful of our famed peppery sauce, shito, adding a tin of sardines, mixing it all up – and hey presto, you have one more delightful food. I really don’t know why but this one would seem finest eaten in a team.
But gari really became the greatest haute-cuisine product when Ghana’s famous caterer, Barbara Baeta, devised a recipe for “gari foto” – gari blended with gravy and seafood, which she served at a condition banquet in 1970 hosted by Key Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia.
Instantly gari had turn into foodstuff that was served at gatherings for the high and m
ighty and it was fashionable.
In some strategies, the many meals built from cassava have been transformed into food items that individuals boast about ingesting.
It truly is not not like the emergence in the 1960s of what African People in america known as soul foods, when they embraced what they ate as slaves and turned it into modern and desirable meals.
I think there is scope for some adventurous Ghanaian caterers to go to Uganda and create restaurant chains that would serve only cassava-spinoff meals.
And I hope that by the time the madness in Ukraine is about, cassava will turn out to be the food of alternative throughout Africa and we shall go away wheat to those who improve it.
There might not be a Chinua Achebe all around to wax lyrical about cassava, we may well not celebrate cassava festivals but no-one particular would ever refer to it yet again as food stuff for the poor, and President Museveni will not have to make speeches to stimulate his people to try to eat cassava.
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