In our collection of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene considers the phone of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for folks to try to eat the humble cassava as the selling price of wheat soars about the planet.
There are two primary root vegetables in West Africa – cassava and yam.
Cassava is available all yr spherical, it is cheap and is regarded, or to set it effectively, was known as foods for the weak.
The other well-liked a person is yam, which Nigerian author Chinua Achebe famously explained as “the king of crops”.
The yam harvest is awaited eagerly. In truth, specific rites are carried out just before the new yam can be eaten, and we set on our greatest outfits to rejoice the vegetable.
Cassava is, at most effective, each day foods and employed to be the common fare of the bad and servants.
I notice that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is urging his persons to change to a diet plan of cassava as an antidote to the rocketing rate of wheat during the recent around the globe expense of dwelling crisis.
“If there is no bread, eat muwogo [cassava],” he reported.
Mr Museveni’s responses have prompted controversy, with critics expressing he has no real approach to offer with the cost of dwelling crisis.
In excess of here in Ghana, we experienced a finance minister who, way back in the 1960s, tried using to justify a proposed raise in taxes by declaring the lousy would not be influenced because they ate gari – a common granular flour designed from processed cassava.
At the time, gari was recognized largely as food stuff for the very poor and the minister created the place that if you extra h2o to fifty percent a cup of gari, it would swell to deliver ample food for three folks. It was low-cost and filling.
The minister was also building the level, without having indicating it aloud, that poor people today failed to consume bread or rice, or other these kinds of extravagant imported meals. This was largely accurate at the time.
Several years later, we experienced a minister of condition who resolved increasing meals charges by declaring persons could always take in kokonte, which he cited as a low-cost different to rice and other imported foods.
Kokonte is manufactured from cassava flour and, like all matters cassava, was acknowledged as meals eaten by the poor.
President Museveni built the point that he ate cassava. In other words and phrases, nobody must be ashamed of consuming, or found to be taking in, cassava because it was now presidential foodstuff.
These times, the drought-resistant crop is also touted as owning wellbeing gains – cassava root is gluten-cost-free, high in vitamin C and loaded in copper.
I you should not know if cassava continues to be branded as foodstuff for the very poor in Uganda, but in Ghana, we have appear a extensive way.
Consider gari. It lose its picture as meals for servants and the weak when it became the indispensable companion of all boarding college college students.
They go to university with a bag of gari in their “chop box”. The numerous meals they make with gari in dormitories are called soakings.
It truly is a swift and uncomplicated process, requires no cooking or microwave oven for heating – you put some gari in a cup, increase water, sugar and milk, combine it and which is it. You have the most scrumptious and filling snack.
The savoury option is much more well-known and entails getting about a cup of dry gari, sprinkling a little bit of h2o on it to soften it, incorporating a tablespoonful of our popular peppery sauce, shito, introducing a tin of sardines, mixing it all up – and hey presto, you have one more delightful food. I you should not know why but this one looks finest eaten in a team.
But gari definitely grew to become the best haute-delicacies merchandise when Ghana’s famous 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 Primary Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia.
Abruptly gari had become food items that was served at gatherings for the significant and mighty and it was fashionable.
In some methods, the different foodstuff designed from cassava have been remodeled into meals that people today boast about consuming.
It really is not not like the emergence in the 1960s of what African Individuals known as soul foodstuff, when they embraced what they ate as slaves and turned it into stylish and appealing foodstuff.
I believe there is scope for some adventurous Ghanaian caterers to go to Uganda and establish restaurant chains that would serve only cassava-by-product food items.
And I hope that by the time the insanity in Ukraine is in excess of, cassava will turn into the food of decision across Africa and we shall depart wheat to those people who expand it.
There may not be a Chinua Achebe around to wax lyrical about cassava, we could not celebrate cassava festivals but no-1 would at any time refer to it again as meals for the very poor, and President Museveni won’t have to make speeches to persuade his folks to try to eat cassava.