We had been stuck around Emmanuel Eye Clinic way too long when from behind two or three cars a lady came rushing up to the driver. On her head was a tray of local ready-to-eat food. With the precision of a ballerina she silently untied the corn husks and tipped the hard white meal, covered in groundnuts, into a transparent polythene bag. Then she crossed over to the other side to collect the money from the drowsy mate, who looked longingly at the tray’s contents. Within seconds, she was swallowed into the traffic in search of a hungry passenger as we sweltered in the heat.
Coincidentally, I climbed into the same trotro the next day and watched the same flow of events like it was a déjà vu. Though I had seen it countless times it would be months later that I learnt the name of this food: Nkyekyerewa. It didn’t even ring a bell. This got me thinking about breakfast in the city.
It’s not uncommon to see food sellers around construction sites, for instance. More often than not – quite understandably – there’s a kenkey seller and a gari-and-beans seller. Sometimes, beans, not fish, accompanies the kenkey. Obviously, the entire Accra populace has ignored the scientific community’s warnings. Only a few years ago, the nation woke up to the sensational news that kenkey causes cancer. That was the first time I ever heard what an aflatoxin was. Needless to say, it became the butt of all the jokes from tabletop kenkey hangouts in Chorkor to the more upmarket Kenkey Boutique. A Ga native I know said he stood a higher chance of choking – and dying – from laughter over this claim than he did of meeting Death from a hot ball of kenkey.
Over time, waakye has also gained widespread popularity. There are those who prefer to patronize an Aunty Muni and garnish their food with assorted meats and salads among other exotic additions. Then there are those who would, more out of circumstance than choice, visit the local Alimatu with her creaky table, dented basin and nothing more luxurious than wele.
Long ago, it was served in large green leaves. Waakye lovers agree these added to the experience. Typically, the smalltime seller would wipe the leaf with a stained napkin. Then she would scrape, with her chipped spoon, the steaming mound of brown rice and beans from within the many folds of the large polythene bag. She would drop the spoon, bury her hand in and grab a handful to deposit the sticky mass into the rolled leaf, flicking into it loose pieces from her palm with her thumb. Your order ready, she would reach with the same dark waakye-crusted fingers for your old note, rummage in her cloth for change and hand it back to you. All the while, she is cheerily replying, “Lafia loo!” loudly to any passerby who bothers to greet.
However, those who cannot stomach heavy breakfasts may settle for kyibom. I gasped when I once saw this huge man ordering four eggs fried together at one high brow spot I had the misfortune of visiting, the kind of place where it’s almost as if buyers are doing the sellers a favour. Most customers would usually buy two or three eggs, fried with sausage or corned beef. A certain gentleman, obviously not initially familiar with the place, asked for one only egg. Nonchalantly, the seller asked what he wanted in addition. Switching to defensive mode, he said in Twi, a little louder than was necessary, “What again? Just salt!” I could feel his pain.
If you’ve been to the stations you can’t miss the shouts of “Reecho pie!” When I heard “Reecho cake!” for the first time I excitedly commented to my brother that Reecho had expanded its product line. He brought me face-to-face with my ignorance in teaching me that they were merely advertising their “rich pie” and “rich cake”. All lies. I once watched a man next to me at Circle buy one. It contained next to no filling. The brittle thing splintered when he broke it. I was dismayed. Needless to say, I don’t even flinch when I hear the distant cry, “Reecho doynort!”
So, ever bought the spring rolls tied to the Fan Yogo sellers’ pushcarts? Or have you had an experience with a koko seller in your area? How about buying bagged cocoa from the boys in traffic? Would you like to share?
The driver’s daily Nkyekyerewa was a forgotten memory when I got down at Ridge. I had my own dilemma, whether to have bofrot for breakfast, or rice from Abortion, the joint near the office. Fifteen minutes later, however, mine was a belly full of jollof rice. Talk about spoiled for choice. Bon appétit.