Tag Archives: Plantain

Saturday mornings in an ‘old school’ Afropolitan household

Saturday mornings as a child were not what I considered ‘fun’ although looking back it wasn’t mean to be! Yes we had cereal and watched cartoons but I mainly remember the obligatory Saturday morning routine of cleaning, polishing and going food shopping with my parents.

Captain Planet: 'By the Powers combined...'

Captain Planet: ‘By the Powers combined…’

I remember one Saturday morning – that I didn’t want to participate in the normal routine- I wanted to ‘sleep in’. Now to be clear, in our household on Saturday morning everyone knows the deal. My dad was a soldier in the Nigerian Army and ran our household on a fairly tight schedule; you get up, eat breakfast and relax for a short while then you better go and strip the bedding and get assigned your duties for the day. Washing up, polishing, hovering take your pick but everyone has to fall into line. However, on this occasion I continued to ‘sleep’ even though I could hear full well the loud conversations and various activities happening around me and boy did I get a rude awakening!

After our chores, followed by getting washed and dressed, we (my siblings and I) would then have to go food shopping with my mum. The journey was a twenty minute walk to the local shopping area, complete with the shopping trolley and market (aka Ghana must go) bags in tow.

Going shopping with my mum was an experience- entertaining, frustrating and very educational. My mum is a BARGAIN shopper- thrifty Afropolitan defined. She will literally go from shop to shop, stall to stall checking for the best price for items. An item may vary by 10p between two shops within a ten minute walking distance but know that my mum will walk back to the shop where the item is cheapest because – in her own words- ‘It’s the principle’. Similarly don’t ever try to short change my mum- if an item is £1.99- you’d better give her back that penny do not ‘assume’ you don’t have to because she will ask you ‘out of principle’. It’s only a penny- adds up over time!

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

Ghana Must Go: The original shopping bag

First stop was the market- to the fruit and veg stall, to the man selling fresh eggs and then to the African Caribbean shops to buy what my Caribbean friends would call ‘hard food’; the yams, sack of rice, Gari (ground Cassava) and plantain (who remember the days of when you could buy five or even six for a £1?).

For the occasional treat we might pop into the local clothes shop. But woe to any store that gets into my mum’s bad books! I recall on one occasion, she bought an item of clothing which ended up being faulty when she got home. But because of the returns policy they wouldn’t acknowledge this nor exchange the item despite her loyal custom. So my mum the campaigner (her mantra-‘know your rights’), stands outside the shop- on a busy Saturday- telling people to boycott the shop (so embarrassing!). Shortly afterwards, they call her inside and settle the matter. The next week everything returns to normal as if nothing has happened- best friends again!

My mum's favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

My mum’s favourite mantra: Ingrained from an early age

Next stop was the Butchers, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons (body parts and the stench of blood not for me), but found it fascinating because of the banter, the haggling along with the percussive sounds of meat being manually and mechanically chopped.

The Look: No it's not one of love it's the 'have you lost your mind' look

The Look: No it’s not one of love it’s the ‘I am going to count to ten, you better take that out of the basket before I do something’ look

The trip always ended at the big supermarket. And if you were lucky enough to be selected to accompany mum to push the trolley – thumbs up. But to be clear- you are literally just pushing the trolley. Don’t ever for one second think this entitles you to select items from the shelf to put to into the trolley because you will be greeted with the speechless stare communicating the  ‘have you lost your mind’ message;  the lecture- ‘So you have money?’ ‘You go to work?’ ‘Whose paying for this?’ (Word to the wise, it’s a rhetorical question DO NOT ANSWER!) ’. Or worse still- the lecture PLUS the walk of shame where you are made to take the item back to the exact place where you took it from. My mum has a shopping list and best believe we are not veering off course. She has accounted for every single penny and nothing over what she has put on that piece of paper is going into the trolley unless she authorises it.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be selected for the supermarket sweep it felt like an eternity of waiting at the set of chairs by the tills lumbered with the market shopping. Why? Because you know approaching early afternoon- it’s prime time for playing out with friends and you are ‘missing out’ (whatever that means). What seems like hours later but probably no more than one, mum would finally emerge at one of the checkouts.

But before you start getting excited, you are not home and dry yet because now comes the ‘packing’ issue. If your mum is anything like mine it’s never just straightforward packing- there is a strategy. My default position is to always help with packing because if you don’t you get in trouble, but as soon as you help for every bag you have arranged my mum is there rearranging- so why bother!?

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping

Waiting for mum: How I felt when lumbered with the shopping.

More often not, we would get a cab home or dad would come and collect us. But if my mum is feeling particularly thrifty and she doesn’t ‘think’ there is much to carry be prepared to walk it!
How many of you can relate? What is your favourite childhood memories of Saturday morning shopping with the family?

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15 items you might find in an Afropolitan kitchen!

Food and cooking play a big part in West African cultures. From hospitality in the home to catering for big functions we take our cuisine seriously- perfectly demonstrated by the outrage against Jamie Oliver’s shocking rendition of Jollof rice (in the words of MC Hammer ‘you can’t touch this’).  So in honour of Jollofgate, here are 15 items you will find in Afropolitan kitchen including some I fondly remember from my parents’ and grandparents’ households.

1. Maggi cubes: Every West African child would have had memories of seeing the infamous yellow and red cubes in the cupboard. Once only found in specialist stores, the liquid form can now be purchased in major supermarkets (still got mixed emotions about this -akin to D&G Ginger Beer being sold in small bottles rather than cans-can this ever be right?!)

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2. Humongous cooking pots: Every kitchen should have pots in it  (unless you don’t cook) but serious Afropolitan householders, mainly those from an older generation, will have pots large enough for Houdini to fit in to. I just remember seeing mountains of pots of all sizes in my grandmother’s kitchen and being in awe of them-especially when just one pot took up all four hobs!

3. Old margarine or ice cream containers– No it doesn’t contain margarine or ice cream, it’s now being reused to store rice, stew or if you are unlucky- a packed lunch box! (Don’t pretend you never had that embarrassing experience as a child of taking your lunch in a margarine container when your friends had pretty little lunch boxes with ‘my little pony’ on them because your mum can’t find your nice lunchbox! 80’s kid lol)

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4. Scotch bonnet peppers: Versatile peppers used in African Caribbean cuisine, there is no way you could make traditional dishes without it.

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5. Bottles of Oil: Vegetable, Sunflower or palm oil, West Africans have a tendency use quite a bit of oil whilst cooking whether its making stew, frying meat or plantain- big bottles no industrial sized bottles of oil are a must

6. Cooler– You are more likely to find this in an older Afropolitan’s households but not for the reasons you think. To most people you use it to store drinks and keep them cool BUT to an Afropolitan this is a standard storage container used to transport rice (Jollof or fried take your pick) to parties as it keeps it nice and warm.

7. Tin of plum tomatoes: This is a key ingredient, used in traditional dishes such as Jollof rice and basic red stews, in every (West African) Afropolitan’s cupboard.

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8. Blender- Most households have this to make trendy smoothies but we Afropolitans have been using this since time immemorial. Whether it’s being used to prepare pepper soup or stew this in an absolute must in a West African kitchen.

9. The random tin of sardines or Mackerel or Corned Beef– there is always one random tin in the cupboard that can be pulled out in an emergency and transformed into a fantastic family meal on the cheap. Corned beef was once known as poor man’s meat and I have fond memories of cooking with this at University (corned beef stew, sweet corn and rice is the one!).

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10. Rice– Rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner- we love rice in a disproportionately unhealthy way, so there is no way we wouldn’t have a tub or a sack of it lying around. Controversially there is an ongoing debate amongst Afropolitans re. The perfect rice to use for Jollof- is it long grain or Basmati? (I know where I stand but am staying well out of it!)

11. Onions: In the words of my dad, if there are no onions there can be no cooking!

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12. Plantain– my best friend and I endlessly go back and forth over the pronunciation of this (she’s West Indian and I West African) but we both agree this is a key ingredient in an African Caribbean household. Boiled, fried or baked plantain is essential.

13. Condensed milk-aka ‘African milk’ according to my grandma.

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14. African shopping bag inappropriately labelled ‘Ghana must go’ (long story will explain one day!)

15. Cassava/gari/pounded yam/ground rice/amala – This suspicious looking powdery substance is in fact a staple starch used in a number of traditional meals once whipped together with some hot water. Everyone in the know knows as soon as that starch hits your belly with that soup (Peanut, Ewedu, Egusi- take your pick) it’s just a matter of time before you are out for the count- in the land of nod!

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