Coming from a blended family with everyone spread across the globe and also having immigrant parents who have lived in at least 5 different countries combined means having different cultural influences in my life. These influences are mostly shared with me through food. My family has made food an important and exciting part of my life. The few times when every member in my extended family gather for a celebration are my favorite moments because I know that there will always be food and there will always be different dishes that I haven’t tried before.
Understandably, most of my introduction to different dishes comes from my parents, grandfather and my aunt since they are the ones I have lived with. My mother and father were born in Ghana where they spent most of their youth. My father lived in Libya for about 8 years, then both my parents moved to Italy and lived here for about 10 years. They then lived in the UK for a little while and then finally settled in the United States. Because of the extensive time they spent in each place and their roots in Ghana, they were able to come to appreciate each country’s culture and their food along with it.
A staple in my house is Jollof rice. Jollof rice is made from plain white rice that is stewed in a tomato-based broth. It is a staple in most West African nations. It is known for its vibrant color and its flavorful spicy taste. Another staple and a somewhat revered dish in the Boamah household is lasagna. Lasagna is highly respected in my household especially by my father. He is the only one allowed to make it. About five years ago, I remember my dad calling my little brothers and I in the kitchen to give us step-by-step instructions on how to make his famous lasagna. I found this whole situation funny because my brothers were 7 and 9 at the time and my dad was so intent on sharing his recipe with his kids. Since I now had the recipe, I decided to make my dad some lasagna as a thoughtful act about two years ago. When I presented it to him, I could see the apprehension in his eyes. He thanked me for my thoughtfulness, but I could tell he was not impressed by my lasagna which is why, till this day, he is the only person allowed to make lasagna in our house. Another dish that I love to eat is an English breakfast. An English breakfast consists of toast, eggs, baked beans, sausages, bacon and tomatoes served with tea. It is a heavy and filling breakfast that will have you energized throughout the day. I remember mentioning in my 10th grade English class the different components to this breakfast dish and the shock on everyone’s faces when I mentioned that baked beans were a component. A fellow student said, “baked beans is only eaten as a side with barbeque and not as a breakfast item.” I did not argue with him because I knew he had a different cultural experience with food being a 100% American.
I believe that Jollof rice is in every West Africans’ top five favorite dishes. It is the food I request the most from home since starting college. It is a dish I never grow tired of due to its variety. The broth base can be flavored with many different veggies or meats that will change the overall taste of the rice. These include chicken, beef, sausage, or carrots. In most Western cultures, rice is seen as a side dish, however Jollof rice a meal on its own- just add some fried chicken to the side and you are set! Jollof rice is a dish that instills national pride for West African people. This is because there is a huge debate going on about which country has the best Jollof rice. The main rivals in this debate is Ghanaian Jollof vs. Nigerian Jollof. There aren’t many types of dishes that can emotionally charge people and lead to a debate that spans generations.
I enjoy a full English breakfast because it is the best way to get your day started. It is a fulfilling and long-lasting meal. It is the main breakfast item I have had since a was a kid. Even my little brothers who have not been directly exposed to the Britain and its culture will always choose an English breakfast when my mom asks them what they want for breakfast. Everyone in my family enjoys this meal. I remember one summer, most of the family members from my mother’s side took a vacation to Ghana to spend time with our family there and each morning, we would all have an English breakfast to start our day. We would sit in the living room, eat and just enjoy one another. I find this extremely interesting because everyone, even those who had never been to Britain. enjoyed this meal This is because Ghana was a colony of Britain, so the older generation were introduced to this meal, and it got passed down through generations even though my family spread wide across the globe with each generation. This breakfast is something that connects all of us and brings as all together
Since Atlanta is such a hub of diverse people with diverse cultures, I have been able to explore the different foods other cultures have. I was introduced to Tuk Tuk Thai which is a Thai restaurant downtown and I absolutely fell in love with it and the flavors in their food. I love how they balance sweet and savory in each dish. This is a difference from the flavors I am used to at home from the Ghanaian dishes which do not include much sweetness unless in desserts. I also love exploring the African restaurants here in Atlanta. This is because they infuse traditional African dishes with Caribbean flavors to create different delicious dishes. There are also traditional Ghanaian restaurants in Atlanta I enjoy, but at the end of the day, Nothing competes with my mother’s home cooking.
Here are recipes for Jollof rice and English breakfast for anyone who wants to try
One Reply to “The Cultural Significance of Our Food”
Really appreciate your sharing of the vibrant family traditions!