In our collection of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene considers the get in touch with of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for folks to take in the humble cassava as the value of wheat soars around the earth.
There are two principal root vegetables in West Africa – cassava and yam.
Cassava is offered all calendar year round, it is cheap and is recognised, or to place it the right way, was recognised as foodstuff for the weak.
The other well-liked 1 is yam, which Nigerian author Chinua Achebe famously explained as “the king of crops”.
The yam harvest is awaited eagerly. Certainly, specific rites are performed before the new yam can be eaten, and we set on our very best outfits to rejoice the vegetable.
Cassava is, at best, day-to-day food items and utilized to be the standard fare of the inadequate and servants.
I note that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is urging his men and women to turn to a diet of cassava as an antidote to the rocketing rate of wheat through the recent globally expense of dwelling crisis.
“If there is no bread, try to eat muwogo [cassava],” he mentioned.
Mr Museveni’s opinions have caused controversy, with critics saying he has no authentic strategy to deal with the cost of residing crisis.
Around here in Ghana, we had a finance minister who, way back in the 1960s, tried using to justify a proposed raise in taxes by declaring the poor wouldn’t be influenced due to the fact they ate gari – a common granular flour created from processed cassava.
At the time, gari was recognized largely as food for the bad and the minister produced the issue that if you extra drinking water to 50 percent a cup of gari, it would swell to supply plenty of foods for three folks. It was low cost and filling.
The minister was also making the level, without saying it aloud, that weak men and women didn’t try to eat bread or rice, or other these kinds of fancy imported food items. This was mainly accurate at the time.
Years afterwards, we had a minister of point out who tackled rising foodstuff costs by declaring persons could constantly try to eat kokonte, which he cited as a cheap alternate to rice and other imported foodstuff.
Kokonte is designed from cassava flour and, like all issues cassava, was recognised as foods eaten by the very poor.
President Museveni created the position that he ate cassava. In other phrases, no person should be ashamed of taking in, or seen to be ingesting, cassava since it was now presidential food.
These times, the drought-resistant crop is also touted as possessing well being rewards – cassava root is gluten-cost-free, superior in vitamin C and wealthy in copper.
I you should not know if cassava continues to be branded as foodstuff for the lousy in Uganda, but in Ghana, we have come a prolonged way.
Take gari. It lose its impression as food stuff for servants and the very poor when it grew to become the indispensable companion of all boarding university college students.
They go to faculty with a bag of gari in their “chop box”. The numerous foods they make with gari in dormitories are named soakings.
It is a speedy and straightforward course of action, requires no cooking or microwave oven for heating – you place some gari in a cup, include drinking water, sugar and milk, mix it and that is it. You have the most delightful and filling snack.
The savoury different is far more preferred and consists of having about a cup of dry gari, sprinkling a little bit of drinking water on it to soften it, adding a tablespoonful of our well known peppery sauce, shito, adding a tin of sardines, mixing it all up – and hey presto, you have one more scrumptious food. I never know why but this 1 would seem greatest eaten in a group.
But gari truly grew to become the ultimate haute-cuisine product when Ghana’s legendary caterer, Barbara Baeta, devised a recipe for “gari foto” – gari mixed with gravy and seafood, which she served at a condition banquet in 1970 hosted by Key Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia.
Suddenly gari had turn out to be food stuff that was served at gatherings for the higher and mighty and it was modern.
In some ways, the various meals made from cassava have been remodeled into food items that individuals boast about consuming.
It can be not compared with the emergence in the 1960s of what African People in america identified as soul foodstuff, when they embraced what they ate as slaves and turned it into fashionable and fascinating food items.
I assume there is scope for some adventurous Ghanaian caterers to go to Uganda and set up restaurant chains that would provide only cassava-derivative food items.
And I hope that by the time the madness in Ukraine is about, cassava will turn out to be the food stuff of selection across Africa and we shall go away wheat to individuals who develop it.
There may well not be a Chinua Achebe all-around to wax lyrical about cassava, we may not celebrate cassava festivals but no-a single would at any time refer to it once more as food stuff for the very poor, and President Museveni would not have to make speeches to encourage his individuals to eat cassava.
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