I grew up in a small village called Banso. Banso is in the North West Region of Cameroon, Central Africa. In my village, the main source of living was farming, so most of my childhood days were spent on the farm. While growing up, I was quite fond of animals. We had dogs, and pigs and rabbits and goats and chickens. These animals tuned out to be my best friends, especially the dogs (that’s a story for another day)
I quite remember my primary school days, till I was about 6years old. I would get up early in the morning to my mother’s gentle call. She was a widowed house wife (daddy died when I was a few days old, but I heard he was a devilishly handsome nigga who worked for the military. Great father too.).
She would make breakfast for me and my four siblings while they did their morning chores. Breakfast was usually fufu corn and njama-njama, the traditional dish of my tribe. A combination of corn flour and huckle berry soup, boiled with red palm oil, salt and maggi (if we were lucky). It is usually served with “kahti-kahti”, which is chicken that has been reared for months and prepared in a very special way, and meant for special occasions only. Its feathers are plucked off (obviously) and then the fowl is roasted on the fireside till its brown. Then its cut into pieces and the entails removed. Then the chopped pieces are roasted again with a little salt and red palm oil, till it’s almost ready. After that, you want to rinse the pieces and cook in a pot, adding some salt and red pal oil. Cook for about ten minutes and there my friend, is heaven right there.
I loooove fufu corn and njama-njama. Although back then I hated it because it was basically all we had to eat (well, mother would throw in a potatoes porridge, or corn chaff which is a mixture of corn and beans once a week whenever she could) and eating it almost every day at that time seemed to be some sort of punishment, now I think that particular dish is God’s best gift to humanity. No, seriously. Wait, you don’t believe me? Visit Cameroon sometime then, and you’ll see for yourself. It’s the country right at the armpit of the African map, just below Nigeria.
The magic is not only in the dish itself. It’s in the fact that the corn which is used to make fufu is planted and harvested in the backyard with lots of care and sweat. It’s in the njama-njama or huckle berry soup, everyone who can work in a shah’ (swampy area) can have a constant supply of it all year round. And lord!, its in the two and a half hours it takes to prepare this meal, sitting by the three-stone fire side, listening to stories from mother while helping her with the cooking. That’s where the magic lies.
The Banso people are a loving and hospitable people. If you happen to visit anyone, be sure to be served with a plate of fufu and njama-njama with palm wine. Back in the early days of my people, when going to the farm, the owner of the house will leave the door to the kitchen hut open, just in case a tired, hungry traveller passing buy needed to help himself with some food and water. This traveler sometimes was believed to be one of the gods of the land. I hear this age-old tradition is still being practiced in some of the innermost parts of the Banso tribe. So hey, don’t go breaking and entering someone’s kitchen when and if you do happen to visit my village, Banso. You might be mistaken for a thief and not a god, and as you might imagine, it won’t be funny at all.
However, what you need to do when you approach a compound is, clap your hands loudly, and say “kwa-kwa?” which means “anybody home?” someone will definitely be glad to welcome you and offer you a delicious meal of fufu and njama-njama, with palm wine. And oh, be ready to carry some guavas, or oranges or potatoes when leaving. It’s also a part of our tradition to never let a visitor go without some food for the road. I knowwww! Banso people are awesome like that. Lol.