Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cooking and cooking the books

The cuisine of Cameroon is one of the most varied in Africa due to its location on the crossroads between the north, west, and centre of the continent; added to this is the profound influence of French food, a legacy of the colonial era. The national dish of Cameroon is ndolĂ©, a stew consisting of bitter leaves, nuts and fish or goat meat. I’ve eaten it in Bamenda and Douala, and its consistency and content seems to vary.

Staple foods here include cassava, yam, rice, plantain, potato, maize, beans, and millet. The French introduced French bread which is seen less in this Anglophone area than in the francophone parts.

The soil of most of the country is very fertile and a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, both domestic and imported species, are grown. Common vegetables include tomatoes, bitterleaf (aptly named) and cassava leaves. Today (Wednesday) I saw some rice fields and a tea plantation on the road to Befussi.

It is no secret that there is corruption in Cameroon. Someone here called it “a monstrous slimy hydra” – what a good phrase! Only yesterday I was given a specific example of the misappropriation of funds – an example which it would be unwise to detail here. These comments should not lead to the conclusion that everyone is doing it. The question "Why can’t the Cameroonian people do anything about it?" contains the answer to the puzzle: because there is no such thing as "the Cameroonian people", only a wide array of disparate peoples who happen to live within common borders. Civil society is very weak here. All those pressure groups (like PTAs, single-issue campaign groups, trades unions ,which keep an eye on government activity) are weak here.

We've had some heavy tropical rain - warm rain - which has kept down some of the dust.


ourman said...

"The cuisine of Cameroon is one of the most varied in Africa"

I'm intrigued. Says who?

Bill Chapman said...

Gosh! A challenge. And from a well-informed source. Hello, Steve! This phrase and others like can be found a lot on the net, and I've heard it said too. Take a look at for example. My widely travelled friends in Douala make the same claim too. I'm not referring to Bamenda only here - but I could be wrong. I often am! And thanks for reading this stuff.

ourman said...

I think every country I have ever been to has made similar claims - some that can be upheld - others not so much.

In terms of ingredients - yes there is pretty varied food here - though lack much in the ways or herbs and spices but plenty veggies.

In terms of cuisine - well put it this way - whenever I am invited out to someone's house I know what I will be eating.

Fufu and njama njama.

Elsewhere occasionally stew and rice, chicken and plantains - and achu features too.

But not a whole lot else.

Kamarad said...

Our man had a sour time in Bamenda. Ashia! He never had the chance to try ndole, eru, okra, koki, kwakoko, mbanga soup, achu, bongochobi, kpem, seseplanti, sesecoco, kwi, ekwang, kati-kati, cornchaff, jollof rice, coconut rice, rice and stew. The list goes on and on. Coming from a Brit, knowing what passes for English cuisine, is insulting!