Monday, October 19, 2009

The Cobra the beans and the belly

So today is Monday. We promised (JW and I as a team) that the diet starts Monday. It was with conviction, after a few months of excess and due to the fact that our clothes are stretching to the limit to accommodate our girth…

So this morning my colleague comes to my desk, and assaults me with an offer I find I can’t refuse. Red red from the roadside seller in Osu. For lunch. Today.

“Ok! Great, thanks.” I’m all excited.

All those vows taken last night, as I chomped on a biscuit smothered in butter, with accompanying warm tea…forgotten in an instant.

But how could I fall so quickly? Day one, meal two?? (Breakfast was a very controlled scrambled egg. Plain. With water and multivitamins).

“Oh, but I shouldn’t. My diet started today.” Laughter from colleagues ensues… You see, this 'diet starting Monday' may have had quite a few public false starts…

The thing is that this red red from this seller is not something you can resist.
Red red is a local Ghanaian dish consisting of a tomatoey bean stew, served with fried plantains. Not low cal stuff. It’s yummy.

The famous seller has been sitting at her tiny outdoor stall, serving up the delicious stuff in bright green banana leaves, for literally YEARS. She sits on a bumpy untarred dead end road, near the old American Embassy in Osu (before they built their new fortress of epic proportions). People come from miles around.. (My colleague being a case in point. I will call him Ernie here, to protect his innocence).

On Friday Ernie mentioned going there and how amazing the food was – the smell, the texture as he indulged with his hands, scooping the beans from the waxy leaf, just like the good old days. The experience transported him to his youth and the carefree days of school.

As he was narrating the story, another colleague walked by and said:

“You know what you are eating!” in a warning tone and walked off. Ernie called her back.

“No, come back! Tell us what!”

A small crowd of us gathered. All the Ghanaians knew what she was going to say. I was the only clueless one (A common occurrence for me here!).

“The cobra under the table!”

Everyone laughed. It is apparently common knowledge/superstition/rumour that this woman uses juju (in this case a mystical cobra snake that hides in her stall), to get her customers craving her food and coming back for more.

I was amazed at this silly belief people hold, creating a witchhunt mentality – just because someone is doing well and has maintained a customer base.

Now it’s Monday. I am supposed to be on day one of a strict and purposeful diet, and yet my mouth has been watering since first thing this morning at the mere suggestion of the red red…

Perhaps there’s more to this juju thing than I care to admit???

On the other hand I could just be a typical diet failure, losing the willpower before it began!!!

The diet starts Tuesday.
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blunt edges said...

lol...guess the juju does work after all!

red red does look quite tempting! is it the real name?

mangotree said...

I would drop a diet for redred too, but then again, I don't get to eat redred that often
maybe you can allow for one redred per week and the rest of the time stick to your diet
and yes, juju is very potent!

The pale observer said...

@ BE - red red is delicious, trust me. Very indulgent. Yes, the real name that the dish goes by is red red.

I'm under the spell!

@Mango -I like your idea! Once a week. :)

Anonymous said...

My mouth is watering. I'm hungry.

staceyjwarner said...

I bet there is juju...the same juju that is in Diet Coke...LOL!

highlyirritable said...

Any country that features peanuts, beans,tomatoes and plantian is diet failure personififed in my opinion. I cannot get enough of those flavours, especially together!

I wish we had some good local African places to eat around here. Instead we are forced to be happy with chain conglomerates that make the kids happy, but deaden their tastebuds.

The pale observer said...

@stacey - I agree, I've always been under the spell of Diet Coke! :)

@irritable - you definitely cannot lose weight on a Ghanaian diet! When I first came to Ghana as a volunteer, eating only local food, I gained weight weekly!!!

No comparison between the tastes of fresh cooked food and the slop from fast food joints... though I still do like to indulge a couple times a year in a good old McDonalds...

Miss Footloose said...

Love this story! Now I have to find me a recipe and make some redred. Unfortunately, I probably need palmnut oil . . .

And by the way, in Armenia, the US also built a new embassy while we lived there. It's known as The Bunker. (It made you feel all warm and friendly trying to get inside.)

Lorelei said...

I'm craving it now, too, and I've never eaten it in my life. Wow, that really is a powerful spell!

Jenn Jilks said...

That is so much fun fun!
Tomorrow is another day. Hvae fun and enjoy.

Just Jules said...

It has been a while, but I am finally making it through my comment stream and see that you visited my blog. Thank you so much for your company. Feel free to pop in anytime. We will have tea next time. Bring friends.

The pale observer said...

@Miss Footloose - I'm sure you can find a non-palm oil recipe for the beans stew. Can you get ripe plantains though?

These American bunkers are something else!!! Was the Ghana one built while you were here?

@Lorelei - wow, I didn't know the juju curses could cross borders! :)

@Jenn - thanks. I enjoyed. And now it's Tuesday. I'm gonna be good! ;)

@Jules - thanks! I'll stop by again, now that I know's there's tea on offer! But no biscuits for me.. I'm on diet. :)

enyonam said...

I'm not too superstitious but, it is true that some food vendors go to crazy lengths to have their food bought.

You should ask about the movie Diabolo with reference to this subject and you will be amazed with the responses.

I do hope you will find time to visit my blog.

dkuroiwa said... had me at the fried plantains!! love those!!

it's amazing what the locals will hide juju in and make it oh so hard to pass up. winter foods here in japan are what test my ability to say no (to which i fail, again and again!). theory...juju-laced food? less calories! yep. that's what i believe.

Anissa said...

Oh my goodness! That red red looking scrumptious. Now you've got me craving beans. ;)

The pale observer said...

@enyonam - thanks! Will ask about Diabolo. Visited and became a follower of your site yesterday :)

@dkuriowa - I like your theory about juju'ed food being less in calories!! Just like food you taste while cooking, and bits you eat off your kid's plates - they are all calorie free!!!

@Anissa - I love beans. What type do you cook/what are your favourite types?

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