Have I told you about the feeling of fullness yet? Reading about the reverence many West and Central African cultures give to how it feels to have eaten and to be satisfied by a skilled cook, was a revelation to me. It was a perspective on what makes good cuisine that I hadn’t considered before.
So what better way to appreciate this (for me) newfound culinary philosophy than to make the starchy staple which has come to epitomize it: fufu! It’s not bread. It’s not porridge. It’s a kind of starchy, doughy, hybrid of both.
Likely first invented in what is modern day Ghana, fufu is a deceptively simple yet ingenious way to eat your daily carbs. Just about any carb will do: yams, sweet potatoes, corn, plantains, and cassava being the most common across Sub Saharan Africa today.
I’ll be making my very first fufu with the latter two, Cassava (or yuca) and plantains. We’ll be cooking, pounding, and somewhat binding the rich starches in these African staples into a creation that’s simultaneously food and a spoon for eating other food.
1/4 cup seeds (pictured sesame seeds)
2 tbsp. nuts (pictures pine and walnuts)
2 tbsp. water
1 bunch wild onions (spring onions or scallions work fine)
1 bunch herbs leafy herbs (pictured carrot tops)
5 oz. greens (pictured Arugula)
1/4 cup ripe berries (pictured raspberries)
Before fire, before homo sapiens even, there was a primitive form of cooking that required no heat or fuel but that of the human body.
The oldest known mortar and pestle goes back almost 40,000 years ago, but we know mashing food goes back to some of our earliest human ancestors, who likely smashed bones to access their delicious marrow. They turned what whole meat they could scavenge into something like steak tartare. This high calorie, high in protein meat played a big role in growing our brains closer to their modern size.
Human foragers of the past had a vast knowledge of plants, animals, and ecology that would put most of us “civilized” people to shame. Modern foraging people studied by anthropologists are like nature encyclopedias for their territory.
“Wild” greens, onions, and berries from my territory