Friday, March 8, 2013

On the Menu: Cameroonian Food

Ready to eat?

I hope you are because I've got a tasty treat for you.  "Traditional" Cameroonian food depends on what part of the country you are in.  Fresh fruit is plentiful throughout the country and they all eat their food basically the same way.  Diners are given damp towels to clean their hands and the food is served in communal bowls with the diners sitting on the floor surrounding the food.  Men usually eat first, then women and children.  The diner eats with his right hand dipping 3 fingers into a starchy food that is usually rice, mashed cassava (fufu), corn mush or plantains, and then dipping that into a stew or sauce.  Meat or seafood is eaten often but it is usually bush meat or locally caught seafood.  Vegetables include yams, greens, corn, tomatoes and many others found locally in Cameroon.  Peanuts, called groundnuts in Africa, are also a common ingredient.

We chose to make a typical Southern Cameroon dish, called Ndole.
It would be made in Cameroon with bitter greens native to the area and crayfish or mud prawns that are abundant.  We substituted shrimp and spinach but it would be good with kale or chicken too!

For the recipe you will need:

  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 1 lb shrimp- cleaned and tails off
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 onion- chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 T fresh ginger- grated
  • 2 cloves garlic- crushed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 T oil for frying onions
1. Cook the onions, garlic and the ginger in the oil for a few minutes until onions are softened
2. Add tomatoes and juice and reduce the heat to a simmer.
3. Add the spinach (if using kale it should be boiled for 5 minutes first) and let simmer until wilted
4. Add the peanut butter and water.  Stir to combine and cover and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp (or chicken) and cook until the shrimp is opaque which was about 5 minutes.  Chicken pieces would probably be about 10 or 15 minutes.
6.  Serve with rice or, if you've got the time, fu fu.

My brother and I thought this was really good.  My husband liked the sauce but had a hard time picking out all the onions and tomatoes since I chopped them small.  He liked the flavor but couldn't handle the texture- picky, picky!  The kids thought the rice was delicious but wouldn't eat the brown stuff with green bits- picky, picky!  One thing I will say about offering them all this exotic food is that now they eat the "other" food I offer them.  For example: Them- "I don't want to eat Ndole, it looks too weird!"  Me- "Ok, you don't have to eat it but you have to finish all your broccoli".  They think they got away with something and I got them to eat their broccoli :)

African Drum Project

Cameroonian Dance and Music

Music and dancing are very important parts of the religion and culture of the people of Cameroon.  There are over 200 traditional dances.  They are very choreographed and usually separate the men from the women and sometimes even separate people by social class.  Costumes and masks or other props are sometimes used to add to the drama.  Dance is used as a way of communicating to the spirits and also as a celebration of life, death, birth, adulthood, etc., etc.  I found a few YouTube videos that were fun.  The first shows traditional music and dance and the second was two women dancing who looked like they were really having a good time!   The music is fast and mostly seems to be a combination of rattles, drums and wooden xylophones, called balafons.  It really gets the dancers moving!

We needed a fun art project so we decided to make an African drum.  In Cameroon they would be made from wood and have a leather top.  They might be carved or beaded or painted.  Here at our house they are made out of recycled plastic cups and tape :)

African Drums
For the project you will need:
  • 2 plastic cups per drum
  • masking tape
  • brown shoe polish (optional)
  • markers
1. Glue or tape the two cups together bottom to bottom.
2. Cover open ends of cups with strips of tape and then cover the rest of the "drum" with bits of tape.

3. If you want your drum to look more authentic, rub a small amount of brown shoe polish over the masking tape and let it dry.  This will make it look like wood or leather.  We were too impatient to do this step!!

4. Use the markers to decorate with geometric patterns or other designs.

Have fun playing with your new drum!!

A whole group playing on them would sound great!!