This past Friday we took part in a cooking demonstration at the HOPE Center. It’s meant to show women that are part of the nutrition program how to incorporate soybean powder into everyday dishes they cook at home. The staff also gave tips on how to make a meal healthier using local produce. As Nurse Love pointed out, why advise mothers to purchase expensive imported apples when pawpaw (papaya) and pineapple are readily available at the local market?
GHS Nutrition Officer Rita explained to me that it’s hard for many to obtain enough protein because the price of meat is high. However, a piece of fish can cost as little as 50 peswas (approximately 30 cents in US currency). She added smoked anchovies and a tablespoon of the soya powder to the okra soup, to be served with banku. She encouraged mothers to cook palm nut soup and palaver sauce with green leaves since they are a good source of iron and other vitamins.
Indeed, the demonstration did not just center on protein, but focused on the importance of a balanced and complete diet. Rita described and provided examples of the major food groups- fats (palm oil), carbohydrates (banku, akple, fufu, yam, cassava, brown rice), protein (fish, meat, eggs, beans), fruit (pawpaw, pineapple, mango, plantain), and vegetables (green leaves, spinach, onion, okra, arguably tomato). And the mothers weren’t the only ones learning- I can now explain that banku consists of cassava, while fufu is a mixture of fermented corn and plantain and akple is a lighter stable, consisting mainly of unfermented corn. Naturally, yam slices (my personal favorite!) are never served with a slimy dish such as okra soup, but is delicious with palaver sauce.
The best part of a demonstration is that it’s interactive- both in the preparation and consumption! The mothers did most of the cooking themselves, from stirring the cassava and water into banku to grinding the hot peppers, garlic and tomatoes together for a spicy stew. In the end, a modest supply of groceries were transformed into a feast for about 15 mothers and their children, not to mention the HOPE Center staff and volunteers. Perhaps most rewarding was watching a three year old child that three weeks ago could barely sit up due to malnutrition now eat a banana and play with his brother. Truly food brings a community together.