Pantry challenge


My sister tells me this is called a haul on Snapchat: taking a photo of your shopping spree. Probably not much cheddar in most of those 😉  Traveling back to Accra, we generally have two suitcases, mainly stuffed with food. Here, things I brought back from the UK in July. Broccoli, fresh celery, nectarines, spreadable butter, BBC Good Food, hummus……

There are several big supermarkets in Accra (Shoprite, Maxmart, Marina Mall) and some smaller ones, South African or Lebanese, and between them I have generally been impressed over what can be found.  Even fresh tofu and bok choi at the Chinese shop in Osu. But look at this:

44 GHC  (that is ten USD…) for a cold Starbucks coffee, as above: who is paying money like that? The minimum wage in Ghana is 8.80 cedi/day, about 2 USD. Interesting that there is a market for these. Or 19 USD for a pint of Haagen Dazs that has probably been defrosted and frozen a couple times? We get used to ice-encrusted icecream here, but usually stick to the local FanMilk icecream, very different price range.

Availability of groceries here in Accra has been surprisingly good. Some things are just hard to get, mediocre quality (oh, that mystery olive oil….), items suffering from heat,  or just very expensive (11 USD for broccoli, for example). We do get good local green bell peppers, sweet potato, aubergine, and cabbage. Anyway, we always bring back food, since we generally have the luggage space. Also brought back: books, inflatable mattresses for the pool, and replacement electronics for all the things that have been burnt out. There are fewer weevils in UK-bought Scottish porridge oats, and better cheese that does not cost a fortune. Items like Norwegian apple jelly, brown goat cheese or homemade blueberry jam are just lovely luxuries.

But we are due to move soon! Our two years in Ghana are due to end mid-November. I cannot believe how quickly this has gone. I am still enjoying our life here, and have been so fortunate to have this experience. The weather has also been cool for almost three months, weirdly fresh since early June, so not dripping with sweat every day makes it hard to think of leaving.


But come November, we are due to move back to Rome. So now I am sorting through cupboards, taking advantage of the cool spell to pile up things to give away (plates, cutlery, that unused salad spinner, my precious rolls of baking parchment, clothes) and we are whittling down the food stocks. Dried beans from Portugal, lots of pulses bought here, spices and mystery jars of sauces and jams. So most cooking these days is driven by the Corner of Doom, which this week has not been bad:

  • Homemade pizza with South African BBQ sauce and onions
  • Peri peri black bean stew
  • Tomato risotto with dried funghi porcini and chorizo
  • Lentil shepherd’s pie
  • Frozen banana smoothies with chia seeds
  • Self saucing mocha chocolate pudding from Ruby Tandoh
  • Steamed puddings with jam, BBC

The chocolate pudding was dessert last night and was lovely.  Future plans include excavating the fridge and freezer too, which will mean meals like this:

  • Laksa curry with klippfisk (dried salted cod)
  • Lots of beans and lentils: stews, soups, curries, salads
  • A Norwegian Christmas dinner with gløgg, ribbe, surkål, akevitt

Italian rice flour, lots of jam, Ghanaian cassava flour, polenta, half a bottle of Pimms…… and all that frozen cheese…. I’ll see what can be done. Maybe Pimms jellies/granita for dessert next week? Not sure what to do with all the older dried spices, like mustard powder, fenugreek, oregano but we’ll work through them. Some things can be given away, like that precious jar of capers, but older/expired/opened things…. No, good to have a pantry challenge, to see what we can do with them.

Sorting though drawers and shelves is also a good distraction from thinking about what it will be like living in Rome again. Amazing in many ways: closer to friends and family, good vegetables, no regular diarrhoea (sorry, but a normal topic here), the miserably humid climate, shoes that go moldy. Less of being the highly visible and presumably very wealthy foreigner and always having taxis overcharge (thank goodness for Uber) or being asked by strangers: ” What do you have for me?”  Or wondering how far Ghana still has to go in terms of development. Or being able to call home without the line dropping and dropping.

But I will miss the incredibly friendly people, especially outside Accra. Not just a cliché. I’ll miss friends and colleagues, lunchtime discussions about talking in tongues or the difference between Ga and Fante kenkey, or the process of slaughtering and sharing a cow for Eid al-Adha. (No, the blood is not used.) I’ll miss the free range chickens and goats in our neighborhood, the wonderful fruit, and the pool downstairs. We’re not living like locals here, we have a washing machine and can sleep with A/C at night: I appreciate how privileged we are. Pizza at Alliance Francaise, sometimes with live music of varying quality. Meeting friends at the weekend craft markets, like at the Goethe Institute, and enjoying the luxury of a five cedi bagel there. It’s a good life here for us, and still an experience I appreciate. Now, what to do with a tin of evaporated milk…..?

Inside note: we hear that the pizzaiolo from Alliance Francaise has moved to the restaurant Salvatore since June, allegedly due to a dispute over mozzarella quality. Makes perfect sense.



Northern Ghanaian hiphop

Maccasio T shirtMy friends in Tamale are down south for the weekend, and look what one brought! It’s a Maccasio T shirt! When I was up in Tamale two weeks ago, we were caught up in the parade (“floating”) for his record launch. Hugely enthusiastic crowds. To quote: Sherif Abdul Majeed, (born April 6, 1995) known by his stage name Maccasio, is a Dagbani language Ghanaian afropop, hip pop and Hiplife musical artiste.]He is a musician from the Kingdom of Dagbon, in the Northern Region of Ghana.”

The lyrics to Ninsala are interestuing: see the video, subtitled in English. Trust in God, not human beings.

Another northern artist is Fancy Gadam. Here is a clip where he is singing Maccasio’s Too Big, or here a video for “All Eyes on Me“, or “Concrete”. In Dagbani, I think, aside from the refrain. Catchy, though.

Here in Accra we hear more Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and other dancehall/hop hop artists, at least based on what I hear in taxis and Ubers. No new Taylor Swift heard on radio here yet. There is a lot of religious/evangelical music, some older pop, some country — and lots of dancehall/reggae.

Enjoy your Sunday: here the water just came back (hurray!) so laundry and showers can commence. Whoohoo!




Weekend in Tamale

Downtown Tamale. I am up in Northern Ghana for the weekend, towards the Burkina Faso border.

Easy one hour flight north from Accra. Starbow and Africa World Airlines fly, my return ticket (bought late) was 640 cedi, about 145 USD.

On our way to dinner we went to the Centre for National Arts (closed) then bumped into a huge cultural event: a record launch by local artist Maccasio. The streets were packed with honking fans in scooters, walking, hanging out of cars. Massive, really cheerful parade of young fans.

Many fans had Maccasio or 69 T-shirts, a few had painted themselves blue with 69 (record label, I think).

Record launch in the news! 30,000 watched the parade. And here is Maccasios last video:

We had a nice dinner outdoors at Chuck’s. Tamale sounds really interesting but tough as a place to live compared to Accra: there is a Melcom, but no big supermarkets or malls like Accra, so you might buy toilet paper in a shack like this:

And drop your laundry off here:

We did, as my friend’s flat has no washing machine. Also no oven, so she cooks on a hot plate. A bit like camping, but for three months. I feel really privileged to be in Accra with a functional kitchen and access to grocery stores.

But people are very friendly here! Here foreigners are simalengas, not obruni. Many more people are Muslim than in the south, lots of little mosques. Off to explore more now!