Right now I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible - a novel about a campmeeting Evangelical pastor uprooting his family and moving them to the Congo for an ill advised attempt to prostletize 1960's Belgian Congo. I've enjoyed being transported by Kingsolver's vivid descriptions, and the culture shock the characters experience is far beyond any other similar story I have read recently.
I know basically nothing about African culture in general, let alone in the Congo, so I figured I'd begin my armchair traveling in this south central African nation. Haha...well, just in looking up maps of the Congo, I've already learned something I didn't know (a sign of how un-knowledgeable I am about geography and world events) - there's not just one Congo right now - there's the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the neighboring Republic of Congo. Ok, adding that to my list of things to research a bit more....good thing I started this project!!!
One of the things that caught my attention in the book was the description of a staple food item - fufu. I know I know, of course I am writing about food before anything else...it is what usually interests me first/most about other cultures! Anyways, fufu is mentioned in Kingsolver's book as being an essential part of the Congolese diet, and it is a gluey paste derived (after a ton of work) from a giant tuber. See photo below:
After the arduous work of digging the tubers (known as manioc) up, soaking them in the river, drying them in the sun, and pulverizing them, creating a dough of sorts, then the pasty substance is either steamed or put into soups.
One of the characters in the book refers to how fufu is one of the only dependable and readily available sources of food, to the extent that the word fufu becomes another word for food, and anything else is considered something somewhat extra-ordinary.
Well, I'm going to try out some Congolese recipes, but I doubt I'll be able to find any manioc to try out making fufu....plus it sounds SUPER hard to make! If anyone knows of any restaurants in SoCal that have food from the Congo, let me know!