Ghana Blog: What’s cookin?

July 11th, 2018

Let me set the scene for you: a 5’2” blonde, white female in the kitchen of Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital attempting to learn how to make traditional Ghanaian food.  Exerting all my effort, I was barely able to complete one stir stroke in the metal pot I was standing over.  Banku, a tough sticky starch, was my lesson of the day.  With sweat dripping down my back from the open flame I was working over and the Ghana heat coming through the windows, the kitchen staff surrounding me laughed at my pathetic attempts of each stir.  They were not laughing from ill intentions of mocking me, but because I was providing them with comedic relief from their daily routine and I laughed along with them.  Needing a break, a staff member took the wooden paddle from me and with ease stirred the pot until the banku was ready to be served.  I was beyond impressed by how incredibly strong the women surrounding me were. I was not strong enough to even move the wooden paddle though the banku, but for the women around me banku was a food made frequently.  To my surprise, banku isn’t even the hardest of the starches on the menu to cook.  Meanwhile back in the US women are hiring personal trainers and subscribing to “boutique gym” to motivate themselves and improve their health.  One day in a Ghanaian kitchen had my arms hurting more then any personal trainer could have accomplished.  

I was in the kitchen as one of my rotations shadowing in the hospital, and was blessed to be taken under their wing as they taught me about all the meals served to the patients.  The kitchen is responsible for providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the children in different wards; the formula for the children in the malnutrition ward; and meals available for purchase to the rest of the hospital’s staff.  On average the hospital feeds 40-50 kids hot meals everyday.  The menu is a set schedule each week and is based on traditional Ghanaian foods such as banku, bean stew, and groundnut soup.  Our experience in the kitchen incorporated aspects of learning the process of making these different traditional foods, banku being the most memorable.  

By the end of my experience in the kitchen my appreciation had not only grown for the women, but their service style as well.  Most food service programs in the US follow a ready to serve style, meaning food is made at a central location and disturbed to be reheated on sight.  This ready to serve style is implemented in some hospitals in the US as well.  Watching all food served to patients in the PML Children’s Hospital be made from scratch made me really appreciate their food service.  Although it is a longer processes, it ensures freshness for the patients.  I believe that extra effort in food service for the most valuable population is very important and something the US could strive to reincorporate.

Lindsey Woller

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