This is one of our local bakeries. One of our friends has two of these massive wood-burning clay ovens and cranks out hundreds of loaves of bread a day. Most of the bakeries make two varieties of bread: sugar bread and tea bread. We prefer the tea bread which isn’t as sweet. In the photo above, the three loaves of tea bread were just pulled out of the oven for me to take home. Mmmmm.
All the steps involve multiple members of the family and sometimes even extended family. The sowing is definitely the easiest part and the weeding is by far the hardest. Long days were broken up by a lunch break in the cool shade of a tree where we ate bean cakes his wives prepared right there on the spot (from scratch!).
This corn harvest is extremely important to the family since it will be their primary food source for the next year. They will grind it to make a flour which will be cooked as sa’abu (or tuo zaafi), the main staple in the region. This bland mash is eaten daily with various soups made of leafy vegetables.
Traditionally, it’s the husband’s job to provide the staple and the wives’ responsibility to provide the ingredients for the soups to accompany it.
After Mamprusi women give birth, they eat a traditional soup made from a paste of roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, red peppers, and gourd seeds. Before she gives birth, she will collect the ingredients, roast and grind them to make a paste (like peanut butter). After she delivers, she will make the soup and eat it with T.Z. (a mash of white corn). The new mother will also have enough on hand to sell, since she will be unable to work during the first few weeks after the baby’s birth.
As my belly got bigger and time grew closer to delivery, I was asked almost daily if I was going to cook zɛlaa* after I delivered (and many people “invited” themselves over to my house it enjoy it with me – turns out, they were all just joking with me).
I asked some of our friends to teach me how to make zɛlaa. First, we went to the market to buy sesame seeds and peanuts and red peppers. I only bought about one-fourth of what my friends suggested. We set up a small wood cooking fire outside my friend’s house. Over the course of two hours, we roasted the peanuts and sesame seeds separately in a large pot. We took turns stirring the pot with a large wooden spoon. After all was roasted, we winnowed the roasted product. Unfortunately, the power was out in town that day, so my friend went to the mill without me to grind everything into a paste.
After KJ was born, it was time to make the zɛlaa. Another friend showed me how to make the soup with tomatoes and onions and the paste. We added in beef and let it simmer quite a while. My friend brought over the corn flour to make the T.Z. and her family all joined us for dinner that night.
Afterwards, every time I was asked by someone in the market if I had eaten zɛlaa, I could answer yes!
The only downside to my endeavor to learn to cook zɛlaa is that the relaxin coursing through my pregnant veins caused my forearm to swell and ache after all the stirring while roasting (hence the ace bandage on my right forearm in hit the pictures of me in labor).
*zɛlaa can also be prounounced as zɛraa
A friend told me he had killed a big monitor lizard in his farm yesterday and they were going to eat it last night. I asked him if they could save some for me and I’d come by to try it.
This morning I rode over to his place and his wife had prepared it in some spicy groundnut stew. If you can get past the disgusting-looking skin & claws it doesn’t taste that bad!
While I was chomping down on the tail, Heidi called me and said she was going into active labor. I hopped on my bike and pedaled home as fast as I could to get Heidi up to the hospital.