Where are our dishes and things we called food? Where are all the flavours from our delicacies which gave our grandparents and generations before them the vitality to grow old before dying? Where are our ‘Aprapransa, Abodongo, Gari foto, Ogor, Akankyie, Adibi a nkyene womu, Apiti, and Akyeke with pear in our individual homes?
Yes, I agree infectious diseases took the lives of some of our relatives, but then, those who survived those infectious diseases (which we still face anyway) rarely were diagnosed with non-communicable diseases. What are the factors which favoured them? Is it their gene, activity level, stress level or diet? I have many questions to ask but who will answer?
Our grandparents used to prepare dishes with only salt and natural spices and they tasted, hhmmm!!! —heavenly. This is confirmed by Elsa Schiaparelli that “A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.” Yes, our mothers, aunties and grandmothers were sorceresses who dished out lots of happiness with their home-prepared meals. Food ingredients were organically produced either at our back yard, farm or local market. A woman who allows her children to buy food from outside was ridiculed and that was used as an insult.
Again, the environment we ate our meals is still fairy tale stories to the young nowadays.
According to Oscar Wilde (in the book A Woman of No Importance) “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations”. Now very few homes have this luxury. The conversations during meal time can even make an unpalatable meal to be eaten without complaints. Now the young do not have the chance to freely talk about the day’s activities with members of the family in a relaxed atmosphere; they take consolation in their friends and the internet. Oohh Ghana!
No one has time anymore, so the best the mother can do is either buy fast food or prepare empty caloric fast food in the house.
Wasawasa, Bankye ampesi with nkontomire abom, Mpotompoto, Akapintin, Ewokpler with anchovies and pepper sauce, Polo, Nketecake where are all these dishes and delicacies?
Ghana, Mother Ghana!!! Farmers are now cultivating two farms where one is organic to be used by his or her household and the other filled with insecticides and pesticide residues for the open market. Market women have made our markets laboratories where mixtures are made all for profit.
Why have we thrown out our well reputable values in connection to food? Who are we copying, the westerns? They have better health systems, the rich can afford our once organic foods and they are living healthier with less non- communicable diseases. We are copying blindly; but who says we cannot copy? Why can’t we add their good habits to ours instead of throwing away what is ours and making them occasional dishes? We can improve and fortify or enrich our local dishes that we think are not so healthy.
We cannot follow the line of Mark Twain who said that part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. Now we know what we eat can take us to our grave early. Food should now be viewed as medicine and medicine as food as stated by hypocrites because that is what it is.
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Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own) puts it this way “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” No wonder currently in Ghana, we are seeing an alarming incidence of overweight and obesity among our children. Young men in their prime ages are being diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and stroke. Now Ghana is gradually gaining grounds in adding to the statistics of non-communicable diseases globally.
There are other Ghanaians, especially the young ladies and gentlemen who are following fads and diets which are not sustainable and practical for long term use. They deprive themselves of proper well-balanced meals all in the name of weight reduction. These people forget that after they get to their desired goals, it is the same old attitude that will rare it head and prevent weight maintenance. According to Jess C. Scott, a fit, healthy body is the best fashion statement. The question is not about you losing the weight but about keeping the body healthy for the entire years God has given you. Most of our local traditional foods are healthy when we get the knowledge of the proportions of what is on our plates.
What can we do then? We have a role to play and the government has her’s too.
Firstly, let us take control of our own lives and those who matter to us. We can change the system by what we desire to purchase with our hard earned money. If work schedules will not permit, at least a parent can eat a home prepared meal in the house with the children. After all, we do not have the luxury of our children always with us. One day they will leave and what foundation would we have given them to propagate. Introduce local dishes to the children with their benefits to the body and let them acquire the taste, rather than imported food cultures. Even if you do not have land to cultivate, at least plant one vegetable in plastic containers and sacks. Get the children involved and you’ll be surprised what fun you’ll have.
Make healthy choices on the rare moments you eat outside the home. Let us prepare home-cooked meals to ensure ingredient choice, preparation and servings are healthy.
Secondly, market women and our farmers, your profits cannot buy the life of the people you “murder” every day when you do your mixtures and spraying respectively. Know that there is more to life than money. One person’s ten cedis can do more than another person’s hundred cedis, life is mysterious….
Our ministries and agencies in charge of supervising and monitoring our farmers and food vendors; let the system work and the people will comply. Others have done it so can we! Monitor cooperate institutions to encourage healthy eating amongst their staff which will, in the end, benefit the company and country at large. Let us create a better future for the generations after us.
At the end of everything, Lin Yutang puts it distinctly for me; “What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?”
By: Efua Owusu-Ansah