Six different plates

Written by Daniel 

Kwabena’s first visit to the United States was three years ago in Muncie, Indiana, when he started his Master's degree at Ball State University. He is the sixth and final child of his family, and is currently a PhD candidate in Chemistry. Growing up in Ghana with a single mother, he admired his mother's efforts, especially when it came to cooking. At an early age, he learned a lot of cooking abilities and doing house chores from his mother. Among the various dishes her mother cooked, Kwabena's favorite was jollof rice. 

Jollof rice is a unique cuisine that is seldom available outside of Ghana, and even if it was prepared abroad, the ingredients his mother used made it stand out.

"The jollof rice move mountains," Kwabena explained.

He meant that eating jollof rice may provide him more energy and allow him to work harder during the day. His mother would offer the meal to her children in six different bowls. This was frequently done to minimize complaints about who was being mean and devouring the jollof too quickly owing to the food's delectable taste. Kwabena ate with his grandma on occasion because he was the last born. It is common knowledge in Ghanaian culture that last borns are fragile and spoiled, especially in their early years, and grandmothers are thought to play a significant role in this.

Last borns are pampered, and one method to shield them from their older sibling's hostility is to allow them to dine with their grandmothers. Grandmothers don't eat much, thus last borns benefit from extra food.

 

"Grandmothers are great - they always made sure you had plenty to eat," he remarked. Because Kwabena and his family lived in the country, jollof rice was a rare treat. He ate this cuisine on major occasions such as Christmas, Easter, and other holidays such as Worker's Day. This was due to the fact that rice, the main component, was a costly commodity in the nation. When his mother informed that the day's dinner would include jollof, he was overjoyed beyond words!

Kwabena's current status as an international student in Bloomington may soon change due to his recent marriage to an American woman. But it hasn't changed his opinion of his all-time favorite meal, jollof rice. He has taught his wife how to prepare Ghanaian delicacies such as jollof, which they both enjoy. Kwabena used to prepare jollof rice and invite other Ghanaians to his house to eat it when he lived in Muncie. While having their special lunch, they all traded amazing tales about their unique experiences growing up eating jollof rice. In Bloomington, he finds it difficult to obtain all of the essential components to produce his jollof rice, but he makes do with what he has. For example, he sometimes replaces fresh rosemary leaves with rosemary spice to keep the scent. Jollof rice can be served with a stew made from fresh and canned tomatoes, or it can be eaten on its own - the dish is a combination of rice and tomato stew. It might also be served with a protein side dish such as an egg, fish, or meat. Kwabena attempts to bring his wife's family over for supper to taste the jollof rice, and they all fall in love with the cuisine as if by magic. As he offers the materials and instructions for making jollof rice, he hopes that many people in the United States, particularly international students, will try it.

Kwabena's Jollof Rice 

Comfort Food Inspiration:

Rice as celebration 

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Jollof Rice 

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Servings: 5+

Core Ingredients 

  • Rice

  • Vegetable oil

  • Tomato puree

  • Fresh tomatoes

  • Onions

  • Fresh red pepper

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Black pepper spice

  • White pepper spice

  • Rosemary spice

  • Bay leaf spice

Preparation 

a. Pour vegetable oil in a saucepan

b. Add chopped onions into the oil
c. Let it fry for about 3 minutes (onions should not be left to burn in oil)
c. Blend onions, garlic, ginger, fresh red pepper and fresh tomatoes and add it to the mix in the saucepan
d. Allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomato puree
e. After 7 minutes, rinse rice and add to the mixture in the saucepan
f. Put some natural spices (black pepper spice, white pepper spice, rosemary spice and bay leaf spice). NB: You don’t have to get all the spices. One or two can still do the magic!)
g. Cover the saucepan for about 30 minutes on medium fire.
h. Serve the jollof rice with fried fish or meat or egg.