Lumps are the worst.
They are dreaded and disliked, not only for their anti-aesthetic appeal, but for the way they feel on the tongue.
On the tongue? What, you may ask, am I talking about? Banku!
Today for dinner we ate banku.
To vanquish all suspense now, the opening statement is a lie. Lumps are not the worst, and are to be valued for what they are. Let the metaphor now take pause.
Banku is a mixture of corn and cassava flour. You add water and salt, and mix/beat it over the stove until it forms a sticky, firm yet soft, ball. Sounds simple enough, but it is hard work. Today Loretta let me start and end the mixing/beating process, but took over at the vital middle portion, in which many stubborn lumps can form and practically spoil the entire batch. It’s impossible to make the banku lump free, but a skilled hand (like Loretta’s and not like mine, yet!) can make it quite smooth.
We ate our banku with grilled tilapia. I do not like touching raw meet, especially when it is in its natural state (full of veins and other innards). I also haven’t been particularly adventurous in the meat department while I’ve been in Ghana. Here, my family eats things I never have before (I think), like pig feet and wili (salted cow back). Not only have I abstained from eating this meat, but I have also backed out of preparing it with Loretta.
Today, though, I told myself that I would learn to clean the fish. Back in the day when my grandmother lived with my family in the US, she would make amazing grilled tilapia. No one in our house made it after she left, and so when I came to Ghana and finally got to have it again, I knew that I needed to fully learn to prepare it, for my taste buds, for posterity. Here is a picture of me conquering my fear and cleaning out part of the tilapia.
Yesterday my grandmother told to me “where I am from.” It was a pretty magical moment.
At some point when I first arrived in Ghana, I asked my grandmother to tell me stories, and for some reason she reminded me about my request in the middle of the day on Wednesday. I wasn’t doing anything, and she had this important manner about her, and so I told her that I was free. There was this heartwarmingly awkward period, a lump, if you will, during which we shifted back and forth between “Oh, okay, let’s do this now” and “Oh, now doesn’t work, let’s talk about his tomorrow.” This period sort of built up my anticipation for her words, making her delivery that much more impactful. I am thankful that my cousin Prince was around and was able to translate some of the harder Twi words for me ( nkon the Twi word for clan, is not something used on a daily basis).
My grandmother didn’t actually say that many words, but I felt incredibly touched to have been able to hear her story, our story, from her lips. I prayed and thanked God after.
I’m sitting in the darkness now, not only because it is night time in Accra, but because dum sor has struck. But time marches forward. Little disturbances, little lumps, come. A couple hours ago, a woman on the trotro accidentally spit out the wood she was chewing onto my knee (thankfully not very much and it fell off right away). But right after, I got to watch a hilarious movie and bond with my cousin and her friend. There have been many beautiful small moments, moments when I have felt genuine joy, God’s presence, secure, loved, and strong. I am looking forward to making and eating more lumpy banku, for such is life.