What’s cookin’?

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.

Breakfast is served

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.

One Ghanaian omelette coming up!

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.

Asomasi.

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About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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31 Responses to What’s cookin’?

  1. agyakomaa says:

    lol!!!

  2. Ama says:

    Abortion????

  3. slimpo says:

    I am still trying to understand why one of the nickname for HAUSA KOKO is SHARP BRAIN. Beats me i tell you. Personally though, i prefer to go heavy in the morning. Light food just makes my stomach ache.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Sharp brain? Well, legend has it that it was only for people who had sharp brains to eat for breakfast, ‘cos you’ll definitely sleep in class. Now, if you’re some dunderhead and you go and eat it … wala oo walaaaa!

  4. LORDRAH says:

    Wow !!!

  5. Raj says:

    I still can’t stop laughing. You have made my Tuesday morning a pleasant one. Thanks.
    Talk of being spoilt for choice i have either jollof, kyibom, abortion and lately ice kenkey for breakfast depending on my pocket.
    Now talk of the pastries and all those things that the sellers sell on the road, well i was offered spring roll by a colleague at work and low and behold when we finally pulled all our muscles together to break it into two, we found beans to be the filling.
    Nice piece.

  6. Mammie says:

    Lol!!!!!great piece…lately i have been commenting to friends about the wide variety of food u find on the road side, from appetizers to desserts…but chaley the “Spin Rolls” (thats how they call it) the ice cream sellers sell derrr dont go there ooo…lol

  7. Abimbola says:

    Yeah, so “abortion” totally obliterated my train of thought. I’d planned to say something about…gosh… I have no idea.

  8. adwoa says:

    hahahaha! Kuks, love it! u know, those waakye leaves are still around.
    And talking of spring-rolls, Raj talks of one with beans as filling. disgusting!

  9. Godfred says:

    charley you dey help me with english waa…..i no go lie you…..keep it coming…….lol

  10. RAY JAY says:

    i envy that good memory of yours…funny piece bro.

  11. Guy Lou says:

    brkfst in the trosky is usually hausa kooko and koose or bofrot. forget all else

  12. Obenten says:

    As i boarded a car to travel from Circle To Bridge yesterday, i just wondered when we were going to be treated to a juicy piece of nkonkonsa about all the sellers who come around the lorry to sell their food and wares;–and presto it is right on my screen today!! Hei is this telepathy? Kuks keep rolling them out. Who knows, very soon we shall all be turned into great thinkers thinking alike to turn out a great Nation. Maybe the next time it could be something on how one can literally buy all that one needs just by sitting in a trotro at Circle. In the short time i spent there the pppiors came in their numbers also the yogos, the krakyeaweasus, the socks (buy one get one free–as if one ever buys half a pair of socks), the lanterns, the watches, the shoes you name it……

  13. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Beans in a spring roll, paa? Is it a spring roll, then? But that’s criminal, isn’t it? And I’ll bet it was tough too. Or brittle. It had to be one of them!

  14. Gabbsta (Mwalimu) says:

    Ok! Son i think this is your best piece yet. My fav is the waakye sold in leaves, what most people dont realise is that the leaves add another flavor to the waakye that you dont get in these modern plastic wrappings. Downside is when the seller has a flu and blows her nose and cleans her fingers with the cover cloth and then when you oder your waakye she “cleans” the leave with the same cover cloth. You know what killed me recently, the fried rice in take away packs sold between the national service traffic light and the airport traffic light and oh have you seen the fufu hawker who carries a boiling pot of soup? Good one though.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      I’ve seen the fried rice being carried about, but did you say FUFU HAWKER?! That one’s gotta carry the cake!

      • Raj says:

        yes Kuks…..fufu hawker i have seen with my own eyes and i was so amazed at the boiling pot of soup on top of someone’s head. this is really FAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSST food to you. i even saw one this saturday at makola.

  15. ELORM says:

    Just salt! hahaha. I remember visiting a friend at Ndjamina courts at Tech. we went out to buy fried egg for some light tea for the evening. when we got there I didn’t feel for any fillings in my bread. In fact I love bread, raw. But the guys around wanted to impress the ladies so they will ask for all kinds of vegetables in their egg and when they get to the room they will painstakingly pick all “unwanted but meant to impress” ingredients before they eat.
    My friend felt quite uncomfortable buying just one egg and no vegies, ( which is what I wanted). He offered to buy whatever else he could to save face before they already giggling girls around. HE spoilt my free meal. Why can’t I just have what I want? If I had gone there alone, I would have answered the woman, Just salt and damn the consequences.

    Oh, and about the pastries, hmm. I bought some spring rolls that gave me jaw-ache. I better not tell that story.

    Keep it coming Bro. It just gets better, your writing.

  16. Jeous Adu Ariva Mendes says:

    Man dat waz good . Ur constructions, as in da way ur phrases n clauses are combined is simply awesome. I wonder where u get ur words from.

  17. Mims says:

    Interesting piece. About the fufu Gabbsta mentioned, it’s for real. They carry a basin with hot coals in in and place the soup in it so it keeps boiling. I was so frikkin’ scared the first time i saw it! love the reecho cake part. lol

  18. Maame says:

    I just loved the story! But kenkey and beans!? .It was terrific though! I’m thinking of making my own blog too, one of these days.

  19. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    I went to get some kyibom to eat this morning, and I just remembered how back in Tech people used to fry their eggs with so much corned beef in them that it was merely eggs holding fried corned beef together!

  20. Meke says:

    chale i remember buying waakye in the leaves only to find a dead cockroach in it. more protein!

  21. Ame says:

    Kwaku, you work is amazing. i’ve enjoyed reading every single piece…just can’t stop.

    LOL @reecho cake!
    keep up the good work.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Thanks, Ame. Kind words. Welcome aboard … assuming you’re now here, that is. Well, let’s share the good news about the stories, then. (Just like Reecho Cake, eh? Hehehehe…)

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