African Cooking

unloading ignames

There are also several African supermarkets close to where I live. From 1996-98 I lived in Togo, West Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, so I enjoy chatting with African immigrants and finding out which country they’re from.

This Ghanaian man is unloading ignames (pronounced IN-yams), a huge tuber which is the basis of a popular dish. You can see the ignames reflected in the mirror above the left end of the cardboard box. The ignames are peeled, cooked and pounded in a giant mortar carved out of a tree trunk with pestles bigger than baseball bats. Think I’m exaggerating? To see me pounding ignames, click here. And for those of you who wanted to see more of me on August 1, now’s your chance!

Back to our African cooking lesson. The resulting igname pulp is combined with a little hot water and turns into a flavorless rubbery dough called fufu. Pieces are pulled off, dipped into the sauce of your choice and swallowed without chewing. Fufu is a favorite West African dish. To be a new African immigrant in Alexandria and to be able to make food like you had at home is so important.

Even though this young man was happy to have me take his picture, the unpleasant woman who runs the place was not at all happy that I was taking pictures in the store. So I’m not saying the name of the store, and no free publicity for her!

5 Responses to African Cooking

  1. Anne says:

    Hi! Wow that looks like hard work! But i’m sure it tastes good… So is it a root crop?

  2. Louz says:

    Hi Marie – I found this really interesting (and yes I did check out the photo of you pounding ignames – I bet that’ll build up the biceps). I liked the photos of the Fair Price too. I’ve got a couple of similar stores here I’ve been thinking of showing. Can I ask, since I am a shy photographer in some situations, do you ask permission or just go in and shoot away? I’d be inclined towards the latter.

  3. MarieMcC says:

    Anne, it is hard work. It doesn’t really have any flavor, though. Less than an unsalted potato.

    Louz, build up the biceps, you have no idea! No flabby muscles in Togo! Yes, I just go in and shoot without asking, especially if I’m not taking pictures of any people, unless it’s a very small shop where I won’t get away unnoticed. Most people are nice and don’t mind you taking pictures in their store, especially if you talk to them a little bit. But if it’s an up close and personal shot, like the lady with the sari or this young man in the grocery store, I definitely will chat with them and ask for permission first.

  4. Geoff Smith says:

    When I lived in West African, the fufu or futu was either principally igname or plantain, mixed with some manioque or cassava. Delicious!


  5. Thomas says:

    The English name for igname is yam.

    There are over 600 species of yams and hundreds are cultivated for their starchy tubers.

    They can be used in a similar way to potatoes and sweet potatoes.

    Yams can be stored for up to six months without refrigeration.

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