15 and 16 December Pig Parties

On Monday I was at Perpetua’s store buying food for the end of term party at my house. Rofina, Portia, Hamdia, Mari and Stella were coming for dinner.

Perpetua: Are you having a party?

Me: Yes Rofina and co. are coming over for dinner.

Perpetua: Oh! The pig! We forgot to tell you about the pig.

I began to dance about.

Me: You are having pork? When!

Perpetua: Tomorrow and Wednesday. Joshua arranged the masters to buy a pig. We will eat the legs and head with light soup tomorrow and then steam and bake the body for Wednesday.

Still dancing

Me: I’m in. How much?

Perpetua: It’s five Ghana cedis and you get a choice of mineral.

Joshua arrived at the store.

Perpetua: You didn’t tell Madam Vicky about the pig.

I knocked Joshua in the head.

Me: Yeah and I love pork and haven’t had any since I have been here.

Joshua: Oh how could I? I was even movin’ with you yesterday and I never mentioned it.

Me: Yeah. How could you?

I hurried home to get my five Ghana cedis.

15 December 2009

I marked papers most of the next day. Around 5:30 pm I bathed and dressed then walked over to Perpetua’s at 6:00 pm. Joshua, Bruce and a couple of the other master’s were there.  We were supposed to start at seven; I had come early to help and visit with Perpetua, Eunice and Gloria (Joshua’s wife). I was surprised to see other masters there already. I have finally found the one thing that will make Ghanaian’s early – meat!

Gloria was in charge of the light soup. She sat under the big tree with large metal caldron set on three rocks. The branches used for fuel formed a three legged star laid between the rocks. As the ends burned Gloria pushed and pulled them under the pot to give more or less heat to the fire.

Peppay (Perpetua) and Eunice were outside in the light near the store. They were making tofu kababs to sell at the Feok Festival the next day. There were some small problems. The tofu had not quiet set as it should and was crumbling. Oh but it was delicious. They had added Maggie, garlic and ginger to the ground soya beans as they boiled them. They sent the boiled beans to the mill to be roughly ground. They cooked the ground soya again adding vinegar to bring the curds to the top. They pressed the curds under a big rock  for about 30 minutes. They cut the curds into squares and then dusted the cubes with flour and fried them. The flour seemed to hold them together.

I sat and visited with the women while we waited for the rest of the master’s to arrive. When there was a critical mass of masters I went to sit down with them at the tables arranged in the yard near the store. Eunice, Perpetua and Gloria went to get the meal ready. Master Morris was to my right. He talked to me about a program he had seen on Tele that afternoon.

Master Morris: Madam, Today on tele I watched a program about the role of women in Ghana.

Me: Really, what did they say?

Master Morris: They were talking about the changing roles of women. How men’s and women’s roles are changing now that there are more women working outside the home.

Me: O I just read that book “Changes” about three women in Accra, two were professionals and one decided on the traditional role. You should read it. I gave it to the book club.

Master Morris:  So in America are women equal?

Me: By law yes but in practice no. Women are still paid about 75% of what a man would get for the same work. Many are expected to do all the house work, cooking and child care even after working all day outside the home.

Master Morris: Sometimes here in Ghana a man won’t want to marry an educated woman because they won’t be happy in the house. The program said that husbands and wives should talk together about what needs to be done. Here in Ghana a man would never expect a woman to go out to farm or to repair the house. (I think to myself but I have seen Perpetua, Francesca and Pat all working on the farm.)

Me: Can’t a couple hire house help?

Master Morris: Oh but here if a woman cooks for a man, washes his pants(underwear) and cleans his house she is doing something very intimate for him. And you know Ghanaian men, oh; sometimes they have ended up having an affair or even leaving with the house help.

Me: Maybe you could hire a man for house help. No never mind that is probably not a job for men here in Ghana.

Master Morris: Oh boys are getting interested in cooking; taking the home economics tract in Senior High but you can’t afford to have such a man cook for you. He would be way too expensive. I think if you have house help they should not cook the food or clean the bedroom. You know they could poison you. Who ever cooks your food has a lot of power over you. And a couple’s bedroom should be sacred.

Me: You know when my children were small my husband stayed home. He took care of them because he had a home based business.

Master Morris: You worked outside? (The home)

Me: Yes and my husband did a great job. He was a good father and a good cook.

I wish I had not shared this particular fact right then because it ended the conversation. Master Morris then bothered Master Clement about his dancing style.

Master Morris: You think it’s dancing if you sit there and hunch your shoulders up and down ?

Master Clement: You show us something better Morris.

At last it was seven and Joshua rose and spoke.

Joshua: I am happy that we colleagues could all join together her tonight to relax and enjoy each other’s company small.

Everyone: Here! Here!

Joshua: It is good when colleagues can see each other outside of work and get to know each other better and enjoy together. I am glad we could all be here before we scattered to spend The Christmas with our families. When we get together in the New Year we can talk of these two nights when we ate together and enjoyed together.

Everyone: Thank you Joshua. Great Idea. We wouldn’t have done it except for you.

Joshua: (Setting a bottle in front of Master Wallace)

Now I call upon the senior member of the faculty to start the festivities. He raised his glass and toasted “Happy Christmas and a prosporous New Year to everyone.”

Then Perpetua, Eunice and Gloria brought out the food. I thought how interesting that Morris and I just had that talk about gender roles. Maybe I was in the role of School Master not female because all the men and I were sitting down while the Ghanaian women served. I wondered if the other women resented that I was sitting. Did they expect me to help? Would I get an honest answer if I asked? Eunice had cooked all day in the school kitchens. Pepe had run the store, baked bread and cared for her home and Gloria did the majority of the cooking for the pig party. The other master’s and I at most sat and marked papers all day.

We had light soup with pig leg and head. Light soup is basically a broth. It has pureed tomato, onion, garlic and garden eggs in it with maggie, salt, peppe and tin tomato (tomato paste). It is not heavy like ground nut or vegetable soup so you have room for plenty of meat. That night there was no starch, no rice ball, no banku, no TZ. Just soup and meat. It was the first time I had seen Northerners eat more than 4 oz of meat at one time.

I had three good sized pieces in my bowl. The first was a bone with meat and skin. I ate all but the bone. I tossed the bone to Vanity, Kampusi’s youngest dog. The second piece was bone and much more meat. When I finished Veto, the Kampusi’s oldest dog, had figured out  it was smart to sit by me so he got my other bone. I sipped some soup between eating the meat but the peppe was making my eyes water.

The last piece I pulled out was strange. It looked like a white conical hat. The lights from the house were not illuminating our eating area very much so it was hard for me to discern what it was. So I leaned over to Master Morris, showed him the meat and quietly said “Please tell the filika (white person) what this is. He laughed out loud and repeated my question to the rest of the group. They all laughed and Master Clement pointed to the tip of the cone and said “Chew here, there is some nice white soft stuff. You will enjoy. It’s ” “No!’ I interrupted “don’t tell me what it is!’  Which caused another erruption of laughter.  Everyone watched and waited as the filika ate this strange new food. I made appreciative noises. Thankfully their attention quickly turned back to their own bowls and I quietly slipped the rest of it to Veto.

Peppay came by with a bowl of meat and gave me two meaty chunck Not need to ask how to eat these.

Then Peppay’s favorite song came on and she called me to dance with her. It was a great ending to a great evening.

The next day, Wednesday, I marked papers all morning. I had a small breakfast and small lunch saving myself for the second round of the pig party. In the afternoon I went to the Feok Festival with Tennie. When I returned it was time to bathe and change. Then I went to Perpetua’s around 6:30 pm.

Perpetua, Eunice and Gloria were in the courtyard. They had just pulled the pork form the oven. They had steamed the meat with spices, onion and garlic and then baked it in Pepay’s large bread ovens. Oh there was plenty of pork. One large metal washing basin was filled!

I sat on the bench behind Eunice who was separating the large pieces into smaller pieces.
“This is my favorite meat” I announce to no one in particular “and I haven’t eaten any since I came here.” It worked Eunice gave me a chunk. It was the perfect piece. The thin layer of fat on the outside was crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. I closed my eyes and savored every bite.

Then Peppay handed me two ribs. After that I didn’t wait for anyone to offer. I picked small pieces from the cutting board where Eunice was separating the meat. I stole larger pieces from the platters. Peppay asked me if I would be able to eat later. Gloria answered for me “It’s her best!”

When all the meat was prepared there were four platters, each with a good sized mound of pork. It was a beautiful sight. I asked what else we were eating. They said nothing, just the meat.

Joshua came to the courtyard to tell us he was there. I told him that after 7:00 pm it was every man and woman for themselves because I was starting even if it was only he and I. Because it was the Feok I was worried that others would be late.

Perpetua and Eunice carried the trays of meat into the house. I can’t understand why the were reluctant to give me a platter of meat?

I went around to the front yard, near the store. A few masters were already there. Sampson was acting crazy. He was, well I wouldn’t call it dancing, maybe bouncing is the right word. He was bouncing all around the tables and up on the porch, around the column and into the summer hut. He said something I didn’t understand. My best guess at what he was doing was shaking down a full belly to make more room even though we hadn’t eaten yet.

Finally most the masters had arrived. Today there were no speeches, no formalities. The women put the platters down and we tucked in. For the next few minutes the only sounds were chewing and small sounds of pleasure. As we were eating the greatest praise a Ghanaian can give to food was pronounces “This is so good it doesn’t even need peppe.”  We kept focused on the business of eating until only a few pieces of fat remained on the platter.

While we were recovering from our pig out a local man stopped at the table. He asked Robert to translate for him.  He said “I saw you here last night and now tonight again. It is good for colleagues to join together and be happy. You are all doing so good teaching our children. “

Robert put two bottles of coke on the table near me and continued translating.

“Especially Madam who has come so far to teach our children ICT. I want to thank her with these minerals.”

For the first time since I have been in Ghana I was truly embarrased. Here I was sitting with all my colleagues and this man singled me out for praise. I regained my composure enough to shake his hand and thank him in Buili. Even as I write now I think a Ghanaian would have had a much more formal and eloquent thank you speech.

My colleagues invited him to join us. He ate some meat and had some wine while a couple of the masters engaged him in conversation. They saved my butt.

The party broke up early so some could go back to town for the Miss Feok ceremony. I just wanted to go home and sleep with my tummy full of pork.

-vc

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