There is a custom in Ghana where anytime someone around you is eating, they say “Va mi du nu“ which means, “You are invited.” We always respond by just smiling and saying thank you. It can get kind of awkward because I would never want to actually eat someone else’s food, yet they expect you to and sometimes persist until you do. It’s even more uncomfortable when I sit down to eat and people around me ask, “Am I invited?” I always giggle and say, “of course!” but secretly hope they don’t stick their fingers into my food.
Last evening while Rachael and I were coming home from Happy Kids, all of the neighbor children were out playing in front of our house. At one point the moms all called us over to their compound and told us we were invited to join them for their dinner of Banku and Okra stew. I went into autopilot and smiled and said thanks, but no thank you. One of the women explained that I needed to eat it so I could tell all my friends at home how good their food is. I again, said no thank you, but these women wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So they brought us seats, we washed our right hands, and sat down to take a bite. All the kids gathered around to anxiously watch the Yevo (white person) eat their Ghanaian food. I took a very small amount of the sticky Banku in my fingers and started to roll it into a ball. It was almost too hot to touch, I was nervous about putting it in my mouth. I immediately got ridiculed for not taking enough, so I gathered a bit more and dipped it into the slimy Okra stew.
As I took the bite, the heat and all the Pepe instantly attacked my tongue—I am a wimp when it comes to spices. All the kids and women burst out with laughter as we licked (well, rather scraped) our fingers clean. I swallowed it down, and surprisingly, I thought it wasn’t too bad. My only complaint was the spice…which I tried hard to hide, but unfortunately failed.
I stood up, thanked them for the food (which they replied by insisting we should stay and share it all…no thanks) and rushed off to gulp down some water. Overall, my first Banku and Okra stew experience was pretty humorous and not too bad…At least not compared to my first Fufu experience. But that’s a story for another time.
Va mi du nu,