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Learning Ghanaian Culture Through Fufu
By Andhisty ‘Disty’ M., Virtual YES Abroad 2020-2021, Ghana
Food can tell us a lot about a culture. Take for example, Fufu, the national dish of Ghana. Fufu is usually made by pounding cassava and plantain with a mortar and pestle. In between poundings from the pestle, it’s turned by hand, and water is added. The process ends with kneading the dough into a circle and serving it.
Inspired by my YES Abroad Ghana virtual activities, I recently tried to make fufu at home! However, I changed the process a little bit, and found some fufu powder at my local store. I combined some of the fufu powder into hot water and stirred it around until it became more solid and sticky. I then took it out of the pot and knead it on a wooden board, forming it into a big, fluffy, delicious white ball.
While I was eating the fufu, I began to contemplate what I could learn about Ghanaian culture from this dish. I had learned that fufu is frequently made in one large batch and shared as smaller pieces. Learning that this dish is meant to be shared spoke to me about the importance of relationships in Ghana, and how this represents a cultural preference towards thinking about the community rather than the individual.
I also learned that it is common to eat with your hands in Ghana. In the U.S., we mostly use our hands for food that can be shared. For example, a bag of chips, candy, or a box of cupcakes being given out. In a community-oriented country like Ghana, eating with your hands and around others can give a feeling of hospitality --anybody is welcome to "dig in" and join!
I was surprised to learn so much about a culture just from one aspect of it. In a time where everything is virtual, engaging with the culture hands-on at home helped me “immerse” myself in it. Instead of traveling abroad to another country, finding ways to bring that country to home can help make a virtual exchange experience even more meaningful!