Dear Nii Kpakpo,
Food here is relatively cheap I tell you, especially yams. You could eat yams the whole day and still there wil be more. Four tubers of yam in the savannah cost less than Gh2 and I wonder why it costs so much in Hustle City.
With so much food in the hinterland, you wonder why food is the second largest expense of city dwellers. Of course the first being transport. Commercial food sellers in the city make a whole lot of profit on food in the city especially if they have the means of getting a direct supply from the areas of production.
Nii Kpakpo, a bowl of my favorite hausa koko, aka sharp brain, costs less than 50p here. Let me give you an example. I went to a very popular spot at Sakasaka to buy my koko and my whole breakfast cost me 70p, that is including the koose and koose chips that we put in the koko like groundnuts.
The first time when I wanted to buy the koko, the seller pleaded with me that she was sorry but will give me two polythene bags because it won’t fit into just one. So she gave me a 30p one and a 20p one. Yes! That was the morning I was leaving town and that idiot journalist was reporting via Peace FM that the youth was rioting when they were only trying to get a Telco mast out of the highway.
Upon reaching Accra I went to University of Ghana, Legon one fine Saturday morning and asked a koko seller there to fill one of the polythene bags they put the koko in and tell me how much it will cost. Let’s not forget that it cost 30p in the savannah. When she filled it up, she told me that I owed her one Ghana cedi. You can imagine my reaction.
There is another food that is obviously cheap here in the savannah and that is meat. The meat sellers here know that the meat would go waste if nobody buys it so inasmuch as they stick to the universal prices per pound of meat, the ‘jala; that they give is even more than the meat you purchase sometimes. One pound of meat for Gh3 can end you up with almost 3pounds at the same price the extra being the 2pounds, at the same price.
Nii Kpakpo, there was this day I was walking in town and saw some items being fried. Thinking it was ‘kelewele’ I approached and wanted to buy some only to realize that it was pieces of meat they were frying. Small chunks of meat cost as low as 20p and imagine if you had a budget of Gh5.
Chale! I have been known to carry a toothpick around not only as a stylus for my Techno T9 but because of the amount of meat I have to consume in a day. It gets stuck between my teeth.
Here the kebabs are not cut out but then you can buy the meat and it is cut out and put on a stick for you if you so desire. Meat is usually done ‘suya’ style and I wonder how and why it costs so much in the city.
Talking about meat also reminds me of the famous Guinea fowl aka ‘akomfem’. The savannah region is the home of the akomfem and even recently they have been in the news when the government decided to make it a cash venture to better Ghana only for the cash to go down the drain when it was alleged the birds all flew away except six of them which each lay an egg.
So all that money and all we could account for was a few guinea fowls and six eggs? I really don’t want to talk about this but then very soon it will not surprise me to hear that they are going for money to go purchase nets to go catch the guinea fowls that flew further up north into Burkinaland. Guess it is Butter Ghana Agenda for some folk whilst it is Bitter Ghana for others. It’s usually a matter of what alphabet you use depending on your political affiliation Nii Kpakpo.
It is interesting to also note that there is chicken and fish and usually the sellers look at you and determine that this person is a chicken person. Savannah folk tend to consume more chicken and it is therefore not surprising that chicken costs more here than any other.
Kpakpo the first time I was buying jollof, when I said meat the seller straight away saw an Accra city slicker and gave me chicken. Why would I leave Accra to eat chicken in the savannah? I quickly made her change to meat amidst laughter and jokes and that was my mark. Now she remembers me and just serves me without asking what I want. She knows the exact amount of food I want every time I’m there.
City dwellers who have been to this part of the savannah keep asking me if I have tried this waakye (rice and beans) here or there. What they do not know is that in their short stay in this region they did not realize that there are more waakye joints in Tamale than there are drinking spots in Cape Coast (in Cape Coast there is a drinking spot on almost every junction and street corner).
Everywhere you turn in the savannah there is a food joint and be assured that waakye is on top of the menu and they are all equally good. This is an indigenous food so obviously prepared by experts. Some sellers may have bad days but still it is good.
I have started a new project of trying to identify which area and particular seller makes which particular waakye so I have started sampling foods from one end of the savannah to the next. I want to be able to identify where a particular waakye was bought just by tasting it without the buyer telling me where they got it. It is an uphill task but i am sure I will be able to partly achieve my intention.
Nii Kpakpo, I cannot talk about food in the savannah without talking about the famous Tuo Zaafi aka TZ. Inasmuch as I have tried to like this food, I have never been able to eat it. Don’t ask me why but if you must know I am averse to some foods without reason. It is the same reason I don’t eat fufu.
Tz usually goes with soup and ayoyo leaves. The soup is usually called bra soup.
Nii Kpakpo I have an interesting story about this particular Tz and bra soup. One time this fine girl invited me to dinner of Tz and bra soup and then quickly you know my dysfunctional mind went into action. Since I do not particularly like Tz I interpreted the bra soup into what it would otherwise stand for. I then told the pretty damsel that I would be interested in the dessert if it involved panties.
Of course if the main meal has a bra in it, then the dessert could possibly have panties and that will be more interesting to taste. Silly me!
Suffice it to say that she cancelled the dinner invitation but the next day bought me waakye for lunch.
Every day whilst I gallivant through this savannah region I look out for three things of interest: the people and their culture, playgrounds and learning centers, and food. The latter being the most important.
I have tended to discover some interesting foods in this region some of which I don’t know about so haven’t really tried. I prefer to stick to what I know.
Recently I discovered a beans and plantain seller on my way to work and the old woman gives me such intense memories of my days on the hill (Vandal City) on the university campus when early in the mornings we had to finish a plate of ‘ablajo’ before lectures.
Kpakpo, it has now become part of my daily routine to queue in the line as early as 6.30am to get a plate of plantain and beans with a dash of gari and pepper to eat before I set off to the office. A whole plate cost me just about Gh1, same as my taxi fare to work.
Savannah life dey bee!
Kpakpo whenever I leave town and come to Hustle City on a visit, on my arrival back here, it is the sellers who are the first to know I am back in town. The fried yam sellers opposite my office, the koko seller on my junction, the beans grandma on my way to work and the waakye seller just 5mins walk from my house are the first to know that I am back in town apart from my house people.
There are plenty more local foods that I have not tried or even tried to write about here but I am sure I will update you on the foods as I continue to live here and gallivant through this savannah region.
However if you do not want to do local foods, the supermarkets are there to get whatever you want. The savannah caters for all tastes local, continental and foreign.
Nii Kpakpo, obviously, there is no way one would starve in the savannah. Food is abundant and relatively cheap. Since food is the essence of human existence, we will do the ‘bough’ for energy to the body.
As Kwame Djokoto will say “edziban: dzi dziiiii!!!”
Till next time, keep eating fresh food.
Your Cousin in law