07 June 2009 – Abe jenta ali musaab (a.bay jen.ta a.lay Moo.saab)

One year ago today I arrived in Philadelphia for Peace Corps staging. I celebrated today by making one of my favorite soups – Abe Jenta ali musaab or palm nut soup and rice balls. my plan was to make it all by myself for the first time. I have made it a few times but always had to ask for help. So to celebrate my integration into life in Ghana I was going to do it myself. Mi li digi abe jenta saluia. I will cook palm nut soup this morning.

My first helper came before I even had the coal pot outside under the summer hut. Kantuace, my small girl, came today even though I told her that she has Sundays off. So I asked her to get the coal pot and set the fire while I finished washing my clothes. Ti li digi abe jenta saluia. We will cook palm nut soup this morning.

Step 1. Wash the palm nuts 5 minutes

Pretty easy. Put them in a bowl and wash them off. Did that all by myself.

Step 2. Boil the palm nuts 40 minutes

Put them in a silver pot. Cover with water. Put the pot on the coal pot and let it boil. Not too difficult either. Did that by myself. Kantuace had to test them to see if they were done. She pulled one out of the pot with her bare hands. Yes Ghanaian hands ARE made of asbestos. Blew on it a couple of times then bit into it.

Step 3. Pound the palm nuts 30 minutes

Put the cooked palm nuts into a wooden mortar and pestle. Sit on a stool and pound. Ghanaian women are strong and they work hard. I lasted about 10 minutes maybe 15 pounding before I asked Kantuace to help. She had been boiling water to put over the pounded palm nuts. The water helps to remove the pulp and oil. We each pounded one more time then they were ready to seive.

While the palm nuts boiled I went to Francesca to borrow her mortar and pestle. I said I was coming begging but she said not to feel that way. That’s how Ghanaians are. If I have something you need you borrow from me and vice versa.

Step 4. Sieve the pulp 20 minutes

My second and third helpers came at this point. Tennie and Matilda. They helped with holding the sieve and pouring the boiling water. So you pour the boiling water on the pulp. Take some of the pulp out of the mortar and put it in a sieve. Press, shake and mash the pulp to get the oil and meat out. Do this with all the pulp then put the pulp back in the mortar and add more boiling water. Repeat but this time squeeze the pulp with you bare hands. If you are a Ghanaian woman this is no big deal remember asbestos hands but for me it was a tad hot!

Step 5. Prepare the ingredients. 15 minutes

Afisa came by and watched me grind, tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppe for the soup. She offered to help and so my fourth helper joined us under the summer hut.

Step 6. Boil the palm oil and pulp. 60 minutes

I made the soup in the morning because I don’t like to cook in the heat. However it had now been almost two hours since I started the soup and I was hot and sweaty. I left the soup boiling with my four helpers then went to take my bath.

Step 7. Add the ground ingredients. 1 minute

Near the end of the 60 minutes boiling we added the ground ingredients, salt, more peppe and some chicken Benny (bullion powder)

I started the soup with a very American attitude “I’m gonna do it myself” and ended it the Ghanaian way “ti ma chaabe” we help each other.

The rice balls will come this evening.

-vc

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