In our series of letters from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene considers the phone of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for persons to consume the humble cassava as the selling price of wheat soars around the environment.
There are two principal root greens in West Africa – cassava and yam.
Cassava is accessible all yr spherical, it is inexpensive and is acknowledged, or to place it appropriately, was regarded as food for the lousy.
The other popular just one is yam, which Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe famously described as “the king of crops”.
The yam harvest is awaited eagerly. In fact, unique rites are carried out ahead of the new yam can be eaten, and we put on our greatest clothing to rejoice the vegetable.
Cassava is, at best, daily meals and made use of to be the typical fare of the very poor and servants.
I note that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is urging his persons to turn to a diet plan of cassava as an antidote to the rocketing price of wheat all through the recent worldwide charge of living crisis.
“If there is no bread, take in muwogo [cassava],” he explained.
Mr Museveni’s opinions have prompted controversy, with critics declaring he has no serious system to offer with the cost of living disaster.
Over below in Ghana, we had a finance minister who, way back again in the 1960s, experimented with to justify a proposed boost in taxes by expressing the weak wouldn’t be influenced due to the fact they ate gari – a preferred granular flour produced from processed cassava.
At the time, gari was acknowledged mainly as foodstuff for the bad and the minister produced the place that if you added h2o to 50 % a cup of gari, it would swell to deliver sufficient meals for a few individuals. It was cheap and filling.
The minister was also producing the level, devoid of stating it aloud, that weak people today did not consume bread or rice, or other this sort of fancy imported foods. This was mainly real at the time.
Many years later on, we had a minister of condition who resolved rising foods rates by indicating individuals could constantly take in kokonte, which he cited as a low-priced alternate to rice and other imported foodstuff.
Kokonte is manufactured from cassava flour and, like all items cassava, was known as food stuff eaten by the inadequate.
President Museveni created the point that he ate cassava. In other phrases, no one should be ashamed of taking in, or seen to be taking in, cassava since it was now presidential foods.
These times, the drought-resistant crop is also touted as getting wellbeing benefits – cassava root is gluten-no cost, large in vitamin C and wealthy in copper.
I you should not know if cassava stays branded as meals for the lousy in Uganda, but in Ghana, we have arrive a lengthy way.
Consider gari. It shed its picture as food for servants and the inadequate when it grew to become the indispensable companion of all boarding school pupils.
They go to college with a bag of gari in their “chop box”. The several foods they make with gari in dormitories are called soakings.
It truly is a fast and uncomplicated procedure, needs no cooking or microwave oven for heating – you put some gari in a cup, include h2o, sugar and milk, combine it and which is it. You have the most tasty and filling snack.
The savoury alternative is much more popular and includes using about a cup of dry gari, sprinkling a bit of drinking water on it to soften it, incorporating a tablespoonful of our well-known peppery sauce, shito, including a tin of sardines, mixing it all up – and hey presto, you have another delightful food. I don’t know why but this a single appears most effective eaten in a group.
But gari definitely became the greatest haute-cuisine product when Ghana’s famous caterer, Barbara Baeta, devised a recipe for “gari foto” – gari combined with gravy and seafood, which she served at a state banquet in 1970 hosted by Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia.
Quickly gari experienced grow to be foods that was served at gatherings for the high and mighty and it was fashionable.
In some means, the many food items made from cassava have been transformed into foodstuff that men and women boast about having.
It really is not not like the emergence in the 1960s of what African People in america known as soul food, when they embraced what they ate as slaves and turned it into trendy and appealing foodstuff.
I consider there is scope for some adventurous Ghanaian caterers to go to Uganda and set up restaurant chains that would provide only cassava-by-product meals.
And I hope that by the time the insanity in Ukraine is about, cassava will grow to be the foods of decision throughout Africa and we shall go away wheat to people who increase it.
There could possibly not be a Chinua Achebe about to wax lyrical about cassava, we could not celebrate cassava festivals but no-a person would ever refer to it again as meals for the very poor, and President Museveni won’t have to make speeches to motivate his men and women to consume cassava.