Food in Ghana is tricky. I guess food in any foreign country is tricky- but in Ghana, food is especially tricky. You have to know exactly where to shop, get a feel for how much things should cost so you do not get ripped off, and know what is safe to eat and what is…..fishy.  If you misjudge the cleanliness of something, your stomach will surely tell you by morning. Don’t eat anything even remotely…fishy.

The most interesting thing here is the price difference in everything. It’s either really expensive, or really cheap- there is no middle ground. A watermelon could cost about 2 American dollars. A bell pepper costs  about  $15. A mango, the size of your head, could cost a dollar- a box of cereal costs about $10. It’s not even a big box. Needless to say, I will not be eating cereal anytime soon- or for that matter, bell peppers.

On the other hand, you can eat out 3 times a day for 10-12 cedi (about 7-10 dollars) total….or if you are willing to chance the street food, about 3 cedi a day….and you don’t tip! I think I am going to miss cooking.  It’s ok- 4 months out of a lifetime- I think I shall survive. Just stay away from the fishy.

So far, my encounters with Ghanaian food have been pretty good. The first meal I had was by far the best;  they served Ground Nut Soup with rice balls- it actually tastes like a peanut butter soup. I did not know this, but apparently Americans are known for their love of peanut butter- and hey- for 5 US dollars and a trip past men with machine guns, you can buy some Skippy from the mall!

A couple days ago however, my meal was not the most fabulous I have ever had.

In Ghana, people arrive to work at about 6am to make food for the day- hoping to serve all of it. When the restaurants open around 12, there is a wide array of foods available. However, by 5pm there is a limited amount. It just so happens, that I eat dinner around 5 (mostly because it is impossible to find any kind of decent food after that). The place we went had two entrées available- Rice with Beef Sauce, and Okro Soup. Well I have had rice and beef sauce numerous times.

 “Okro soup.“ The waiter gave me a kind of funny look, but agreed to get it for me, then assured me it was very good.  When the soup arrived, it smelled delicious. He also gave me a bowl of water, and two white balls- that honestly looked like bread- wrapped in plastic. Right away I was kind of nervous….what do I do with a bowl of water and squishy bread? The waiter lingered for a second, and I said thank you before he walked away.

As it turns out this piece of squishy white roll covered in plastic was also a very sticky piece of squishy white roll covered in plastic. So that’s what the water was for- problem solved. Then instead of using a spoon to scoop the soup, you use pieces  (torn only with your right hand) of this squishy sticky white roll to get the soup. Here I go. One giant piece of sticky covered with lots of soup. Yummm.

Bones. That is what I got. Lots and lots of big fish bones. I had no idea this was a fishy soup. Uh-oh. Bones…yuck yuck yuck. Next bite- a little better- more of the sticky, a little less of the soup- sour. So so so sour. So now the sticky is also one of the most sour things I have ever tasted. A white squishy sticky sour roll dipped in a soup full of bones. Not the best thing I have ever tasted. However I kept eating. The waiter was giving me a watchful look- so how could I stop?

 Then, fish head. Fish eyes, gills, mouth, silvery skin. Ok, all done (as Zade tells me at home).  All done. No more sticky, no more bones. All done. The waiter swooped over and said politely to me “Is this your first time to Ghana?”……I responded “Is it that obvious?” He laughed, and said “Yes, Obruni”, and took my soup away.  At least he chuckled.

I am usually very open to new foods- I would not say I am not picky, because canned food gives me the heebee gebees, but I am relatively open. However, I do think this will be the last of my fish entrées in Ghana. No more heads, no more bones, no more sticky. In the instance of fishy food, just peanut butter will do for me.  I really will miss cooking.