My first experience with fu-fu, the Ghanaian national dish, was very interesting. Fu-fu is smashed plantains and cassava mixed together with soup poured over it. My co workers learned that I had not tried fu-fu since arriving in Ghana, so they decided to take me out to try it at a local restaurant near my work. I had heard horror stories from students from previous years in the Media in Ghana program, so I was pretty terrified of trying the dish. However, I couldn’t deny my colleagues the joy of watching me learn the the proper traditions of eating their national dish, so after some thought I agreed to go with them to try it.
We walked into the restaurant and my hesitancy hit an all time high as I looked around and observed five large pots holding various colors of soups being heated on an open flame, a woman in the back area pounding what I assumed was fu-fu with a bamboo rod, and feral dogs sprawled out across the floor. The small shed-like building smelled like food, but it was an unrecognizable food to me. We sat down and a co-worker said we should sanitize our hands because the proper tradition of eating fu-fu was to eat with our hands. So we sanitized.
Our food arrived at the table in one large communal bowl with a whole fish, large pieces of meat, and two large balls of fu-fu smothered in a reddish sauce. My co workers then described the proper way to eat fu-fu as using your fingers as scissors and gently separating parts of the dough from the larger balls. My immediate reaction from putting the first bite of fu-fu in my mouth was to spit it out. The texture mixed in my mouth like oil and water. As soon as I swallowed that bite, my co workers let out a quick giggle and informed me that I’m not supposed to chew it, and then they giggled at me again.
After the first bite, I looked around the small restaurant and realized that every diner in the place started to observe me and join in the small giggles of my colleagues. Feeling as though I was some sort of lunchtime entertainment, I decided to continue on with this awkward endeavor and eat a second bite. The second bite was not as weird as the first bite, as I tried to swallow it whole. I noticed the taste of the soup in this bite. It was salty, spicy, and delectable. Still the texture was not exactly something I would treasure from the experience.
Bite after bite I became more comfortable with sharing a communal bowl of fu-fu and soup with my colleagues. I left the restaurant feeling completely stuffed and absolutely grateful that I have such wonderful people to work with while I’m in Ghana. Although fu-fu is not my most favorite food in the world, the experience was rich and I would consider eating it again.