Given the low cost of labor, I’ve relinquished nearly all house chores to the live-in housekeeper/nanny. I don’t wash nor iron my clothes, mop the floors, take out the garbage, nor wash my dishes. You can get someone do everything every day for 200 cedis or less.
For the last couple of months, I’ve divided my diet between Ghanaian dishes and fried chicken and other fast-food options from the A&C Shopping Center. Everything was starting to taste the same and the food at A&C — surprisingly — was not that cheap.
At first, I thought I could hire someone to cook for me but I quickly realized that most Ghanaians are not familiar with non-Ghanaian dishes.
I’ve asked the girls to try my chicken. They had to overcome the strange concept of a man cooking. Teresa 1 poked at the chicken as if it was poisoned. They were not impressed.
“Needs salt,” Teresa said, “needs pepper.”
“I’m not trying to cook Ghanaian food,” I explained a bit defensively. Considering how I was trying to make “Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon-Herb Sauce”, I’m glad it didn’t taste familiar to them. (I get my recipes from “America’s Test Kitchen”.)
As I have admitted, Ghanaian food can be good. Unfortunately, much of the flavors are limited to a) the local ingredients and b) Ghanaian imaginations. For instance, Ghanaian stews all seem to taste the same because they all involved the same ingredients: tomato, onion, tomato paste, local spices, pepper (optional), palm oil to cook, and salt.
Most Ghanaian dishes do not have anything green in them — except kontomire (spinach) stew. Many Ghanaians do not enjoy vegetables. (I do not consider cousins of potatoes and yams to be vegetables.) Some don’t like them because of the taste and others don’t like them because vegetables are not considered filling.
“Hamburgers? pizza? What is American food?” Teresa 1 asked reacting to my slight of local cuisine.
The answer is the bastardization of the foods of the world. Immigrants from Mexico, England, China, Poland, Thailand, South Korea, Sweden, Argentina, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Iran, come to the US — and they bring their flavors with them. Most of the time, Americans cannot ingest the real thing so the immigrant chefs have to “dumb it down” for their American patrons. Most immigrant-owned restaurants have an American menu and a “real” menu.
Furthermore, over the last ten years, the “locavore” movement has emerged encouraging people to pay up to eat foods grown locally. Instead of buying your food from either genetically modified crops, imported ones from thousands of miles away, or from massive cattle/pig/chicken farms, some people are trying to buy food from just a few miles away. Locavores and immigrants make answering the question, “What is American food?” a bit hard to answer.
Tonight, I’m making teriyaki chicken. (Ahhh, Ghanaian food does not have any main dishes that are sweet.)