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Opinions of Friday, 24 July 2020

Columnist: Kordson Kwasi Ayrakwa

Waakye, rice and beans: Favourite Ghanaian Food"

Waakye is a meal enjoyed by almost every Ghanaian Waakye is a meal enjoyed by almost every Ghanaian

"When the belly is full we can think, we can imagine, we can dream dreams, we can invent, we can conquer and above all, we can achieve whatever we set our minds to"

Food is very important to our daily living, growth and survival. Without food we are weak, helpless, cannot work, and cannot achieve our highest potential. One of such foods which gives us energy to survive is " Waakye" or simply, Rice and Beans.

At school, "Waakye" was the food we sort for. We would gather ourselves together and do what we called, NCNC ( No Contribution No Chop). Everybody contributing to buy a large amount, with boiled eggs, or " talia" or Macaroni or Fish or large chunks of Meat, or " Wele" and gari and sometimes with ripped fried plantains. And you had to eat fast, the food was hot with strong black pepper burning your mouth and sweating under the hot sun.

In Labone Secondary School, Auntie Abba was our saviour, her Waakye was special, it was nice, hot and delicious. You would see long lines of students waiting patiently for their turn. Sometimes, the "Sixformers" (Senoirs) in their blue shirts will cross the line in front wanting to be served before their juniors. Those days, the Blue shirt had power. It commanded respect, authority and seniority. I remember, Mike Sampson, Paul Mensah, Alex Wiafe ( Bruno Conti), Eben Adablah and I would line up for our turn. We were gentlemen, so we never crossed the line. We were "sheeing diplo". Some great dignity.

Sometimes, we would compliment the Waakye with "Awan Mor" or special fried rice we had prepared with some onions, peppers and tomatoes we got from Otto Sorgbe's farm. I would say, we were a little adventurous and explorers.

In the Labone suburbs, there was a very special place for Waakye, called " Katawodiesu". Particularly, on Saturdays, it would appear as though, the whole of Accra was gathering there. People driving cars of all kinds- Porche, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Range Rover, Audi, Jaguar, Peugeot, Toyota, Nissan, etc. all wanting to get "a piece of the Waakye" at Katawodeisu. It was such an amazing site to watch. The rich, the poor and the middle class all congregating for this special Waakye. Sometimes, I believed and thought, the woman, who prepared the Wache had some magical powers - because, the congregation of people there was beyond description. It was quite expensive too.

When I was in Ghana two year ago, I made sure that, I visited this wonderful place at Labone Junction. It was necessary for me to remember, what we enjoyed during our school days there. And alas, all the memories became fresh in my mind.

In Teshie/Nungua Estates/Zongo (Dare salam)/ Twibleoo, we had our own wonderful Waakye base - our friend "Baba and Zelia's Mother's place". The Waakye here too was special. And in the local Ghanaian communities, knowing people in all spheres counts. Therefore, Baba and Zelia being our friends really got us good services and generous portions for what we paid. And bless her heart, Zelia's mother was very kind and lovely. I guess, she considered us all, as her children. Thus, Zelia's Mother's Waakye was patronized by many young people in the area including Steve Anokye, Francis Kumi, John Randy Ahorlu, Kojo- Shoemaker (girl bi nti) , Teiku, Odai, Osei, Olospee, the Kakari Brothers, Emma, Joe, Kwame Ayrakwa, Clinton Ayrakwa, Martin Ahorlu, Arnold Gabienu, Atunkosua (Dr. Kwame Adjepong, Chairman of Zoom Lion - one of the most prosperous companies in Ghana) etc, - we were all neighborhood boys, always hungry and needed to be fed.

Baba/Zelia's Mothers Waakye also attracted my good friends like, Michael Dordor, Emmanuel Quartey Papafio, Bruno Conti, Eben Adablah, Rascoli, Ofegee, Richard Adugu, Dela Newton, Mark Entie, Cherry, kyeremanting (brethren) and Paul Mensah. We were all regulars there. We had sardines and corned beef mixed with the Waakye, eggs, macaroni and gari. All that combination was deadly. It was really great fun, exciting and a marvelous bond of friendship and brotherhood we had. We talked about all the sweet things around us, the politics of the day, and of course the ladies, our ambitions, school work and general progress we were making toward the future. It was a time of great optimism and determination.

At work and at the ministries, many workers depended on Waakye to meet their nutritional needs during lunch time. The quality of the food was good and also at a fair price that could be managed by many workers. It was also, a time for "small talk" about what was happening in the office. It offered the opportunity to discuss serious issues and find quick solutions. This helped promote, peace, trust, unity and cooperation at the work place.

At home, it was a special and welcomed meal for the family. With Mama's dexterous skills in the kitchen, it does not take too much time for it to be prepared. And we the children were never satisfied with what we were served. Energetic children like us with insatiable appetites, always welcomed more food and when it comes to Waakye, there was no chance any of it would be spared.

Although Waakye, nutured our bodies, it created businesses for the local community in which it was sold particularly- our Mothers. The various Wache sellers were a great source of economic activity and entrepreneurship.

Waakye, with its strong nutritional requirements succeeded in being one of the most wanted foods in our communities during ceremonies, festivals and activities.

Today in the diaspora, during independence anniversary celebrations Waakye is served and desired by many Ghanaians and foreigners who want to try an authentic Ghanaian/African cuisine.

A number of African restaurants here in Canada, the UK, USA, Germany and all over the diaspora serve Wache as part of their menus. Waakye has therefore, achieved International fame and known as one of the special African cuisines/dishes that, has withstood the test of time and will continue to be an important meal that, brings vitality, energy and nourishment to all who patronize it. Indeed, it is food for the living, the best nourishment for the body and a great African cuisine that should be desired by all.