African Culinary Pioneer 25 Years Ahead of her Time
Dinah Ayensu (a.k.a. Naa Ameley Ayensu) is the author of The
Art of West African Cooking, originally published in
the early 1970s. During one of her frequent trips from Ghana
to the U.S., Dinah met my husband (Osseo) and me for an interview
in Washington, D.C. We met her first in the lobby of the
hotel where she was staying, along with two Ghanaians also
visiting her--Sam Amoah, a Ghanaian chef in New York, and
Comfort, a former employee of Dinah's Ghanaian tour agency,
currently a student in Minnesota. As Dinah swept into the
room dressed in vibrant colors, her charm and vivacity made
us all family. It was no surprise to learn that her late
father was a paramount chief of the Ga people. Dinah attended
the prestigious Wesley Girls High School in Ghana and has
a distinguished record of service in the diplomatic corps
of Ghana, both in Great Britain and the U.S. Her husband,
Professor Edward Ayensu, was formerly the Director of the
Office of Biological Conservation at the Smithsonian in Washington,
D.C. Over lunch Dinah shared some of her thoughts and observations
on West African cuisine, which have been excerpted below:
Fran: Let's talk about The Art of West African Cooking.
In the book you implied that people tasted Ghanaian food and
liked it, but were unfamiliar with it and suggested you should
tell people how to cook it.
Dinah: Yes. . .that was it.
Fran: Was it difficult to write up the recipes? Cooks don't
generally measure as they cook.
Dinah: Yes, it wasn't easy. I had to learn. I had some
difficulty knowing whether there was enough of it. Also,
we don't have names for our dishes as you do, so my editor
came from Doubleday and sat down with me and we had to sort
of figure out how to name the various dishes. And also to
find the origin of some of them.
Fran: How did you do that?
Dinah: Well, from memory, and also I had a lot of help
from friends and the embassy staff. I talked to people--I
acknowledged them all in the book.
Fran: When the book first came out, did Doubleday do much
promotion with it?
Dinah: Yes, there were speaking engagements and autograph
parties throughout the U.S. The book was part of a series:
The Art of Indian Cooking, The Art of West African Cooking,
The Art of the West Indies. . .It blended in. Also, they
had--what do you call them? cookbook club members.
Fran: So you got to do a lot of talking?
Dinah: Yes, and at schools and nursing homes. At the Smithsonian.
I did cooking demonstrations.
that flurry of activity, did you continue to do "culinary" stuff?
Dinah: I did some demonstrations on television, including
the Mike Douglas Show; I also talked to schools. They were
then interested in Africa.
Fran: Was this in the 70s?
Dinah: Yes, most of it.
Fran: A phenomenon I think interesting is that there were
some pioneers, like yourself, who in the 1970s published books,
and then those books kind of disappeared for 20 or 30 years.Now
they're reemerging. I think you were probably ahead of your
Dinah: Probably so, in a sense. . .At the same time, there
was a need for it because people (in the U.S.) were eager
to know about Africans.
Fran: It coincided with African independence, because in the
60s in the U.S. there was all this excitement with the civil
rights movement and blackness and African stuff, so there was
a big, sort of popular surge at that time, and then, because
of all the problems that happened in Ghana and other places,
it went down. . .When I came to Ghana in 1971, my husband's
sister Afua bought me Alice Dede's cookbook Ghanaian Favorite
Recipes. It helped me even though it was not very detailed,
but in Ghana it's an oral culture so people learn from others.
Dinah: That's the best way to learn.
Comfort: by the age of 13 or 15 or so you should have learned
all the basic recipes so that you don't have to be looking
in a book. In Ghana, at a certain point some time ago, if
you looked in a book before you cook everybody would think
you didn't know how to cook.
Comfort: You have to know the basic recipes, and after
you have done that, maybe if you want some change you go
to a recipe book to look for some little things to add to
it. But there are some basic things you have to know how
Dinah: And you learn by watching your parents, aunties
and big sisters do it.
F: Now, will that change, do you think, in the future?
Dinah: No, it's still going on. It's still going on right
Fran: What about boys? No one wanted to let a boy in the kitchen
when I was in Ghana.
Dinah: Nowadays they do.The boys are encouraged to learn
to cook for themselves because the girls are also attending
university and they don't have many hours to spend in the
Osseo: The men are in trouble (laughter)
Sam: A lot of men travel and they're not around their parents
any more. . . so they have to learn how to do these things.
Fran: I find for myself that when I'm working it's hard to
go home and spend a lot of time cooking.
Dinah: So you cook it in advance. And with modernization
you refrigerate the cooking. Then you have whatever your
husband wants, and he's not denied the luxury of having his
traditional meals. Of course, you have to pound fufu fresh
each time, but the soups can be refrigerated.
Fran: I sometimes think they taste better the second day.
Dinah: They always do. The food matures, it seasons and
it's tastier the next day. But really, people have this false
impression that our foods are overspiced. It's a matter of
individual taste. If you prefer it very hot, you make it
hot. It's like the use of salt: if you don't want salt, you
don't put it in. Also, if you watch throughout the whole
world, people in the tropics they all love hot food. Trinidad,
and the Islands and Brazil, and so on. They all eat spicy
Sam: It's like Mexican food. Even though it's considered
spicy it's not all that spicy. It's just the flavors. . .Cajun
food from the south, Louisiana style. . .it doesn't have
to be hot. . .
Fran: I found it interesting when you said, Brazilian or West
Indian food, food that people think is so authentic and exciting--very,
very rarely do they recognize the extent of African influences
So why don't they give us credit for it? It's like curry--the
use of curry is Indian--the Indian cooks that
were cooking for the colonial masters--they applied a lot
of their spices and herbs and that's how we acquired the
use of those herbs and spices in our cuisine. But everybody
recognizes that curry is Indian. Middle Eastern. So why don't
they give us Africans credit for the recipes that they are
familiar with? They always push it aside. Now groundnut soup
has become international--everybody loves it, and palaver
sauce, spinach, and even fufu--it took a long time before
they would taste it--now, they love it. And kenkey. Fried
fish. It's the same--we fry fish the same way the Japanese
and the Chinese fry fish--whole, with the head. And yet,
if an African puts a whole fish with the head on a plate,
they say "yuk. I don't want it." When a Japanese does it,
it's okay. I don't understand it. It's very confusing.
Osseo: Americans used to treat Japanese the same way. And
then the Japanese got power.You know, even when I was a child,
they used to laugh at things that were made in Japan. For example,
you go to buy a kerosene lamp--made in Germany or the UK, it's
supposed to be durable, but if it's made in Japan, everyone
is nervous. It's the same in this country (the U.S.).When the
Japanese started making cars, Americans who didn't have high
standards would be the ones buying cars because they were cheaper.Then
the cars were found to last longer, have better mileage, etc.,
and then Americans started to give them some respect.It's now
to the point where the Japanese are setting up plants in the
U.S. and hiring Americans to make Japanese cars.
Dinah: So now they have to respect everything they do,
including their food?
So now they respect their food. Now their food is "gourmet."
example, consider "sushi." Can you imagine Americans
eating raw fish? And now, it's the "in" thing, with sushi bars.
Dinah: And snakes. The Koreans eat snakes. I understand
they dress it in the marketplace for you. If they know Africans
are eating snakes, nobody will eat them.
Osseo: The French eat frogs' legs, right?
Dinah: And we don't.
Sam: Snails are something that we have back home.
Dinah: The French eat snails and it's a delicacy. When
they come to Ghana, they are afraid of the giant snails.
Fran: It seems like there are two standards.
Dinah: Two standards!
perception is "Oh, it's African. Ugh!"
Dinah: As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the finest
cusines in the world. All this roasting and barbeque, it
started in Africa.
Fran: That's interesting because I understand that the California
Culinary Academy is setting up a new curriculm based upon four
cuisines, and one of those is West African--partially because
of frying and barbeque and those techniques which they think
originated in Africa. That's a shift in culinary training.
(To Sam: I'll bet you didn't study African cuisine when you
were in culinary school. Sam: Not at all.) And you mentioned
some ingredients, too, that may have originated in Africa,
and yet Africa and Africans are not given credit. Those are
some of the things that it's up to people who know better to
begin to talk about.
Sam: That's why a lot of credit has to go to people like
Auntie Dinah here. Because we have to have people to write
these books and let them know that we have these things.
. . and these recipes, from way back.
Dinah: It's very important. That's why I came up with The
Art of West African Cooking--not just Ghanaian, but
West African. A little bit at a time, before we can cover
the whole of Africa. And Africa--Morocco is included, you
know. And yet they separated them. When you have Moroccan
couscous it's supposed to be exotic. It costs more than
the gari in West Africa. What is the difference? Food for
the masses, you know. It's like the American and his hot
Fran: I think part of it is a lack of awareness. I talked
to some people who import and sell couscous in the U.S. and
I told them about gari, and they were interested. Or the red
oil palm. It's had bad press in the U.S. and is seen as high
in cholesterol and really unhealthy, and apart from Africans
and West Indians who know where to go to certain stores and
get it, no one has tasted it. In order to make these oils as
available as peanut or olive or corn oil or even butter, it's
up to some of us to convince the stores that there would be
a market for such things. Right now Americans are into all
kinds of exotic new foods. I wish that they would come into
a restaurant and want to have. . .
Dinah: Palm nut soup.
Fran: Right. Or tatale or red-red.
I'd like to give an example of peanut butter. You have
they get up in the morning and spread peanut
butter on bread. And yet you tell the child about peanut
butter stew or soup, and suddently "Yuk. It's African" and,
though it's basically the same thing, except one is in a
paste and one is more soupy, you know.
Fran: Are you sure? I cook with kids, and, surprisingly, I
find a lot of them are willing to try the soup.
Sam: They don't think there's anything wrong with peanut
butter, but soup, oh, no.
Comfort: People at school see my food and they like it
more than their own, and often ask me to open a restaurant.
Dinah: Remember, right now you are in school (laughter).
Fran: Sometime I do things at multicultural fairs. If I cook
very very simple recipes, like plantain chips or kelewele,
people often love them. Or rice balls. Kids like to make rice
balls. I agree that part of it is what you say. People don't
know, so as long as no one challenges some of this nonsense,
everyone assumes things that aren't true.
I think this discussion is healthy because in a way we
to educate ordinary people so they should
at least be willing to give it a try--to be a little adventurous.
When our visitors come (Fredina Tours) we are very cautious
about the recipes that we prepare for them to eat because
the time frame of the tour is very short. We don't want anyone
getting sick and blaming it on a particular food they eat
that they haven't had before. If they are there for three
months, it's different. But when they are there for 7 days,
we don't want to leave anybody behind, so we give them grilled
chicken and beef stew and rice. We don't immediately introduce
them to fetri detsi (okro soup), because if your system is
not accustomed to okro, it can sometimes "work on you."
Fran: Do you notice any difference with your visitors coming
from different parts of the U.S.--say Minnesota, as opposed
Dinah: It's usually a mixed group. Sometimes we give them
a planned menu, to accomodate special needs like vegetarian,
diabetic, etc. It's approved by the group leader, and they
have an idea of what they're going to have. No surprises.
Fran: Do African Americans and White Americans have any differences
in their reactions to the food?
Dinah: No. Not at all.It's the same. . . For instance,
we eat rice and beef stew in the morning for breakfast if
we want, or kenkey and fried fish. Kenkey is like tamales--it's
steamed corn dough. The Americans come thinking they're going
to have continental breakfast, and before you know it, they're
in the kitchen eating rice and stew. 8 o'clock in the morning.
Something they will never dare do here. Maybe somewhere in
the south people do. But around here (Washington, D.C.) most
people want toast and sausages--when they come, they don't
want toast and sausages.They want to eat what the local people
eat, and they enjoy it.
Fran: That's interesting. It's true, I find that often when
people find out what Ghanaian dishes taste like, they're really
Comfort: It's true. One of the students at my school who
went (to Ghana) came back and now he knows where (in Minnesota)
to find all of the ingredients to cook Ghanaian food He really
likes Ghanaian food now.
Dinah: Ghana has the most delicious pineapple in the whole
world. It's the sweetest, the most delicious. Anybody can
attest to that.
Osseo: If you say that, I can believe you. Do you know why?
Because your husband is one of the leading botanists.(laughter)
Dinah: Not really. Anyone can taste it and tell.
Osseo: Putting his authority and your authority together,
I can really believe anything you say (laughter).
Dinah: You can check it. It's called the sugar loaf pineapple,
and it grows in a specific region in Ghana. It has a short
lifespan, which makes it difficult to export it. Some people
have managed to export it to Europe, but not to the Americas.
But it's the best in the world.
Fran: All I know is that yesterday, when my daughter Abena
left for Ghana, I felt sad because I knew she'd be eating really
good food and I wouldn't be there.
Dinah: Pineapples, mangos, lemon and pawpaws (papaya) in
the morning for breakfast--very healthy--we have all these
fruits to enjoy. People hardly eat cereals in the mornings.
They eat fruits.
Fran: One of the things I find it is difficult for people
in the U.S. to get used to is the absence of rich, heavy desserts
like pies. However, with the shift in the U.S. now to lighter
desserts, if you can get really fresh fruits, like papaya sprinkled
with lime juice, it is more similar to what one would eat in
Ghana. Still, it's hard for Americans to understand why you
wouldn't want a heavy dessert after soup and fufu.
Dinah: When they come to Ghana, they forget all about the
apple pies.They go in for the fresh, tropical fruits. And
it's healthy for you.
Osseo: So, on the average, how many tour groups come to Ghana
with your agency? Or is it better to say, how many people do
you see a year?
Dinah: We've been in operation for almost 5 years. It's
decent. People usually come in groups of 15-20.We've held
conferences which we've organized for several hundred people.
It varies quite a bit. I guess I'd estimate 300-500 people
a year. Tourism is growing in Ghana. It's now starting. And
that's why I'm here (in the U.S.). To promote the business.
It's a new destination in tourism, and we have to advertise.
People still don't about Ghana.
F: After the enthusiasm of the 60s and early 70s people shifted
their attention to other places. In the U.S., as you know,
most of Africa has very bad press: AIDS, starvation, war, that's
all people think of when they think of Africa. We need a more
sophisticated awareness of Africa and things African--you're
working in the tourism industry--to counteract the misperceptions
about that. I personally think, that there's a possibility
that in the 90s and as we're going into the next century, there's
a chance for books like yours to take their rightful place
in culinary history. When you told me that you had republished
it, I was very excited.There's another woman--Nigerian Ola
Olore--who wrote The Best Kept Secrets of West & East
African Cooking--in 1980, and it's been rereleased in the
90s as Traditional African Cooking. Also, Bill Odartey--or
Blii Odartey--has rereleased his book, so actually, now you
can find, now that yours is out, at least 4 of the classic
books from the 70s (80s) that are being rereleased. I'm trying
to convince publishers and culinary magazines that there's
a whole generation of Americans--including but not limited
to the African American community--that are interested in African,
and especially West African, cuisines. . .
Dinah: Yes, and in our cuisine there are some classic recipes,
and all we need is to get the chance to share it with the
Fran: And to bring it in at the level at which it deserves?
Fran: Thickening soups with pureed groundnuts is a sophisticated
Dinah: Yes, it is.
Fran: When I have cooked Ghanaian food for Japanese visitors--such
as garden egg stew with shrimp and smoked fish--they loved
Dinah: They love it! I had an executive lunch/dinner during
one of those international conferences in Ghana--they invited
the Japanese separately. They loved the fish, the smoked
fish, the shrimps--they are very close to their own traditional
cooking. And yet, if you tell them you are taking them to
an African restaurant, they all hesitate. They want to go,
rather, to Chinese.But if you get them individually or privately
in your home, they love everything, and I mean everything.
Fran: Okay, but in Ghana now, you've not actually been teaching
cooking, apart from occasional demonstrations?
Dinah: Not officially. I do it informally, but my interest
in cooking is very high. In fact, I was planning to open
a restaurant and serve classic recipes, but it's cost intensive
and also time consuming. I can't do that and the tours at
the same time.
F: Right. Okay, but you think there's a need in Ghana for
a really world class restaurant that serves Ghanaian cuisine?
Fran: We've talked about traditional cuisine. I'm also interested
in asking you about contemporary Ghanaian cuisine. I noticed
from reading your cookbook, that you, like many educated Ghanaian
women I know, are creative, and you will adapt the classic
dishes. . .
Dinah: Before the publishers would accept the book (The
Art of West African Cooking), it had to have classic,
conventional methods of cooking. Before they would
accept it, they told me "we can't do this"--"in America
they don't know about this and that and so and so." At
the time I was writing the book, they didn't know about
fresh ginger roots. Some of the people in the Washington
area didn't know what okra was. So, the message we conveyed
in the book was to make it possible to highlight some of
the ideas--to educate those who were interested.
Fran: Okay, but just from looking at Ghana over the last 30
years, do you think that the contemporary Ghanaian cuisine
has. . .
Dinah: Changed? Oh, it has changed a lot. I'm intending
to write another book.
Fran: What are some of the ways in which you think it's changing?
Dinah: For instance, we are using more condiments. Modern
condiments like MSG (monosodium glutamate), Accent, Chinese
sauces, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup. We are
using some of them in our recipes. Mustard. Vinegar. Lemon--
squeezing it over the fish and chicken and marinating it.
We were not doing that before but now we do.We used to cleanse
the chicken with lemon, but the idea was not to marinate
Fran: So condiments is one of the big areas in which you see
changes. Any others?
Dinah: Yes. Also sugar. Earlier we were not using much
Fran: Is that a change for the better??
Dinah: Nowadays people have developed a sweet tooth. Before
they were not much inclined to eating sweets.
Fran: In my experience, Ghanaian cuisine is not a sugary cuisine.
Fran: In Japanese cuisine you actually add sugar to the food.
I can't think of any classic dishes--like soups or stews--where
you add sugar.
Dinah: No, we don't.We don't mix sugar and salt.
Fran: Anything else?
Dinah: Our cooking is not individualistic, like a salad
and. . .it's onepot for economic reasons--when you have large
families, so that you have enough for all.
Fran: Tell us something about regional differences.
Dinah: There are regional differences in the cooking, depending
on the crops they grow. The people in the North use
mostly river fish because they don't have the ocean. We (in
the south) export smoked ocean fish to them, and they also
send us the smoked river fish. Smoked for the purpose of
refrigeration. Then they have more grains and rice in the
north. In the north they grow sorghum and a few other
grains. Also, the people in the Ashanti region eat more of
the vegetables like spinach and kontomire. And plantain,
and root vegetables. And the people in the south eat more
fish and seafood dishes.
Fran: Yes. I learned to eat kenkey and fried fish when I lived
Dinah: Kenkey is delicious.
Fran: When I go back to Ghana and people ask what I want it's
either going to be banku and okra stew or kenkey and fried
fish with some pepper sauce.
Dinah: (laughter) Did you have to acquire the taste for
okra stew, because of the draw?
Fran: I think I probably did. My mother has southern roots,
but we never ate okra in Oregon or California. I never ate
it until I went to Ghana. But I notice with my cookbook, when
you look at reviews around the U.S., and the testers, it's
very interesting because of the regional differences--people
from the southern U.S. are, say, more attracted to kenkey--that's
more similar to corn things my mother used to eat--they crumble
cornbread in milk and the idea of fermenting it doesn't bother
them--it's more like hominy and grits and things like that.
And they find okra fine. I had testers from Pennsylvania who
would not eat avocado without putting sugar on it. The ones
from California loved it. In Pennsylvania, children often haven't
even heard of plantain. In Florida, it's as common as bananas
here. Everybody eats them. It's interesting. So, if you had
a tour group coming from southern states, they would probably
really like things with okra--they would like things like kenkey
Dinah: In Ghana, people from the Volta Region--banku is
their mainstay. They love it. Also, in Ghana we also don't
use too much milk--cheeses and milk--in our cooking. Maybe
the people in the north who are herdsmen, they might tend
to add yogurt and milk.
Fran: The only milk I had when I was in Ghana in the 70s was
in tins. Now you can get it fresh. When we were there in 1994,
we could get fresh milk. . .By the way, what are your favorite
Dinah: Fried fish and kenkey. I like good light soup.
Fran: What do you like in your light soup?
Dinah: Smoked fish or goat meat. Hmmm. . .what else? I
like beans. Anything with beans (Note: she had black bean
soup over lunch at the restaurant where I interviewed her).
Like tatale and aboboi (ripe plantain pancakes and stewed
beans). Aboboi is bambara beans. You know that?
Fran: Yes. I've been trying to find bambara beans here.
Dinah: Have you tried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)? They're
not the same, but it's a good substitute.
Fran: I heard in Chicago that there's a culinary historian
(Will Weaver) who has bambara beans and will give me some to
grow if I want them. But I didn't know you can subsitute chickpeas
for them. Have you ever done it?
Dinah: Yes, I have.
Fran: Tatale. I was having trouble with that one, because
I was trying to reduce the palm oil for frying them.
Dinah: Then don't make the mixture too soft.When you don't
make the mixture too soft you can use very little oil. And
Fran: Yes, I was brushing the oil on teflon. I always get
asked about the red oil palm.
Dinah: The red oil palm is not as hazardous to your health
as they talk about, if you use it discreetly.You can use
a little bit to make the stews, you don't have to pour a
whole cupful. I use like 2 dessertspoonfuls.
Fran: I mix it with other oils, like peanut oils.
Dinah: But do you know we have different variations of
palm oil? Zomi, for example.
Fran: I know--the ginger and spices give it a great flavor.
I talk about that in Akwaaba (a cookbook I'm currently
writing). But it's such a big job, Dinah. First, you have to
teach people that "Africa" is not one country.
Dinah: It's not one country. (laughter)
you have to teach people that there are different kinds of
in different parts of Africa. You can't just
say "African cooking." Then you have to begin by explaining
to them that within, say, West Africa, there were different
colonial influences and that some parts are anglophone, or
francophone, or lusophone.
Dinah: Precisely. Precisely.
Fran: And then you have to teach them, even within a single
cournty, like Ghana, there are different regions. There are
so many things to explain. For example, the oil. If you're
Italian, you realize that there are different qualities and
kinds of olive oil. There's virgin, there's extra virgin. .
.it's the same in Ghana with palm oil.
Dinah: It's the same thing, but they don't think so.
Fran: A yam is not just a yam.
Dinah: Even the smoked herring. There are different grades
of smoked herring. . .We have many different kinds of seafood:
prawns, shrimps, baby barracudas, red snappers, cassava fish,
bass, perch, silverfish, sole, and so forth--it's the same
Atlantic ocean. . .
Fran: We talked a lot about differences in Ghanaian and American
cuisine, like differences in sugar and milk. Let's look at
similarities. We know that there are similarities. Our southern
cooking in the U.S., okra and black-eyes peas and greens--those
are influences of Africa. A lot of cooking techniques--deepfrying,
you were saying barbecuing, are African techniques. So would
you agree that some of the similarities are some of the ingredients
and some of the cooking techniques that came from Africa?
Dinah: Yes. And the use of (hot) peppers. Varieties of
peppers. And peanut oil.
Fran: Any other similarities or differences that come to mind?
Dinah: Eating with fingers.
Fran: What about hamburgers and french fries and pizza? Watermelon?
Dinah: Yes. And fried chicken. But they (in the U.S.) are
taught to use cutlery. But the natural thing is to pick it
up from your plate and feel the food--touch it. It all adds
to the pleasure of eating.
Fran: Okay, so that's a similarity, as well as a difference.
Dinah: I don't think Black American use smoked fish in
their cooking. Their palates have not been trained to focus
on smoked fish.
Fran: But they use smoked ham, or bacon? Do you think they've
substituted. . .
Dinah: If you go to the specialty sections of the grocery
stores, you have varieties of anchovies or kippers, herrings,
smoked bacon, things like that. Well, they use smoked ham
hocks, but not seafood--smoked shrimps and smoked barracudas,
tuna. . . They will prefer the ham hocks and the bacon.
Fran: You also mentioned that in Ghana you can eat a heavy
meal for breakfast.
Dinah: Yes, in fact, for some people it's economic--they
they don't have to worry about lunch, or sometimes even dinner--they
can just have something small. Once they get a heavy meal
in the morning, they feel satisfied throughout the day. And
it's supposed to be better for you than eating heavy late
in the day.
And dessert, as you know, is not part of the menu. It was
an English influence on our culture. We know how to make
cakes and breads and puddings, but those are all things that
were taught by the colonial rulers.
of the things that I've noticed--as an outsider--in Twi they
say "The strangers eyes are very big with looking,
but he doesn't see anything" (ohoho ani akeseakese nanso onhu
Dinah: It means you open your eyes widely see a lot but
you don't understand it.
People say "They're not civilized." "They don't
eat 7 courses," and all this. I say, look, if you go to a party
in Ghana, you'll see people eating chichinga and drinking beer,
THAT's the first course. Later they will go and have soup and
fufu, and later they might have snacks, too. They just don't
do it all sitting at the table.
Dinah: There are people who will say they haven't eaten
the whole day, simply because they haven't had their soup
and fufu. If you give them anything--bread sandwich, Caesar
salad, they don't consider it as food, until they've sat
down with their bowl of fufu and soup. Or fish and kenkey
for the Gas (the Ga people).
F: Of course. In fact, it happened to me in Ghana. I was doing
my research for my dissertation. We were interv iewing people
about what they had to eat--it was 24 hour recall. And people
would say (in Twi): I only ate once today.I ate. . .blah, blah,
blah. Then you find out, they ate all day long, but the only
one they counted was the heavy one. So I'm very sensitive to
Dinah, thank you for taking time to talk with us. We'll work
with you to get the word out about West African cuisine and
also help you get the credit you deserve for your pioneering
Dinah: Thank you.
of Dinah Ayensu's bookThe Art of West African Cooking, which retails at
$15, are availabe on for purchase through BETUMI.
to the Library