Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ghana Journal II -- Food and Fabric

Four out of the five. That's how many nights we ate Ghanaian food. Three of those nights in Accra we hit an outdoor restaurant where we religously ordered kelewele, spiced fried plantain cut like apple slices, and jollof rice. I don't know what seasonings go into that food or whether it's the palm oil, but the flavor is got-to-have it. I liked Red-red, a bean dish, too but I didn't keep ordering it like I did kelewele, jollof rice, and fried fish. I compared kelewele from our hotel, Coconut Grove, her sister hotel Coconut Grove Resort, dining next to the water, and our regular Accra spot, the winner in my view. But Maia, my daughter, said the cook at the guest house where she stayed topped the restaurant's version. She got instruction in making them under the cook's supervision, and has made them since back in the States. I can't wait to sample! The only night we didn't eat Ghanaian we went to an Indian restaurant, invited by Maia's cohorts, who touted it to be the "best Indian food in town." I can't speak on that but my shrimp briyani took a delicious notch up on the spice over the one back home. The other Ghanaian delight not to be missed is their cocoa. Even with mostly water and a little milk, the chocolate flavor was sublime!

All over Ghana, in the bustle of Accra or along dirt roads in the countryside, women wear some of the most well-fitting skirts and blouses made of strikingly colorful fabric on the planet. I'm talking women of all sizes, those with big hips, bountiful breasts as well as those more modestly endowed, or downright lean. Not once did I see a woman with her skirt "cupping her behind" as my mother used to say when she took me shopping as a girl and a dress or skirt I was trying on was too tight and wasn't coming home with us. The Ghana ankle length skirt follows the waist and hips with precision, and the kaleidoscopic colors of the fabric, along with the creativity of the blouse, and precise tailoring, all add up to beautiful, elegant women. Fabric is everywhere for sale, the colors and designs a vibrant feast for the eyes. I bought one of the loveliest batiks from a roadside stand manned by an adolescent boy whose mother had instructed him not to bargain, and though I doubted him at first, he made a believer out of me.

Kente and adinkra are the most prized traditional cloth from Ghana. Kente is an intricately woven cloth of silk threads that come from the okomantan spider. There are many designs, and at one time, a particular design was associated with a particular clan or social status. It is woven in narrow strips which are then sewn together. On my second trip to the Cultural Arts Center I bargained well for a piece of kente and adinkra. The adinkra cloth is stamped with adinkra symbols, each one representing a particular belief or principal of Asante (also spelled Ashanti) culture. Sesa Wo Suban, Transform my life is one of my favorites. That's why it's in my blog heading. One day I'll figure out how to get the symbol there too.

Next and final Ghana Journal - The Castle (where the enslaved were held before making the Middle Passage).

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