Thursday, April 26, 2012

To Market, To Market, To Buy a Cow's....What???

To Market, To Market to buy a cow’s…what????
With all my heart I wish there was a Super Wal-Mart in Kumasi.  I’d even settle for a Safeway or Food Lyon.  Oh, the convenience of having everything you need located in once place.
Funny, that the thing I consider convenience----being able to park my car, go inside a store, and purchase everything I need at one time and in one place---is the very thing many Ghanians consider an inconvenience.  

I was discussing the glorious invention of the supermarket with my friend, “Mr. F.”  I was telling him that most of our stores are enclosed, not open-aired, street side vendors.  He said, “In Ghana, we believe it (going into a supermarket) takes too much time.  Here, you can just shout what you want, and storekeepers will bring it right to your car.”  A nice idea in theory, but this concept usually results in a lot of driving around in heavy traffic with a car that has no air condition. 
My first trip to the market (to purchase groceries for our family, not my first market trip ever), was with our dear friend, Bishop.  I told him what we wanted and he drove me around to all his favorite vendors.

Our first stop was chicken.  I’ve always wanted to catch and kill my own chicken. (Don’t ask why;  I’m just a little bit strange that way.)  Perhaps someday, but this was as close as I’ve gotten so far.  We picked out our chickens, and watched them kill and butcher it.  It was quite an experience, and very educational for my son.

Then, it was off to get vegetables, fruit, rice, etc….   Four hours, and a million stops later, we had everything we needed and were headed home.

Flash forward to two weeks later, and it’s time to hit the markets again.  This time, we are on our own.  Bishop sends us out with our driver and Mr. F, who is new to Kumasi, and not so aggressive with bartering.  We are a bit nervous.

See, for most everything in Ghana there are two prices: a local price, and an Obruni price.  Our price is usually twice what the local price is.  If you have a friend who knows how to barter, you can usually get the price down to somewhere between a reasonable price and a local price.  

Off we go.  First, we find the right market on the first try.  This is a good sign, because our driver isn’t that good with English or directions, and has a tendency to take us to his best guess of where he thinks we said we wanted to go. 

Things are going well.  I compare prices to what we paid last time.  For new items I just try to not pay more than I would in America.  I know often this means paying more than the locals, but when it comes to bartering, I am just not good.  My guilt complex goes into over drive and I have this overwhelming sensation that I am ripping people off.  In reality, I am the one being ripped off, and I am being ripped off simply because I am an American.

I go to the same vendors as last week, and promise to keep returning if they treat me right and offer fair prices.  Let’s hope this works!  I’ll let you know.

The next stop we make is for “cow”.  We’re kinda chickened out, and we’re still on a fish strike from our last stay in Ghana.  So, to the cow market we go.  The cow market----aka butcher alley---offers fresh meat, still in the process of being dissected into all the proper cuts.

We hit the first vendor we see when we walk in.  Mr. F begins to barter.  He quotes a price of 40 Cedis, and is giving me a look like this is too much, but the butcher isn’t budging, and I really want some cow!  I ask the man what part of the cow is it, and he hits his side.  Rump roast, I assume, and calculate that this is actually a pretty sweet deal, in American terms.  I pay the man his money.  I end up with two pounds of ground beef (which we ground ourselves---another story for another day), and two nice size roast, for about $25 USD.  Not bad.

Then, rather than do the sensible thing and just leave, we decide to have a look around.  What we got was an education.  Did you know that EVERY part of the cow is edible?  It is! And EVERY part of the cow is available here, at butcher alley. (What a day to leave my camera at home. :-( )  

We ask Mr. F if Ghanians eat every part of the cow.  He looks and us and says, “Yes!  We eat everything but the sh*t!”  And he was not kidding.  Want some cow tail or hoofs?  No problem.  How about some liver, kidneys, or stomach?  On the go, no time to make dinner?  Grab some stuffed, barbequed intestines on your way out.  Perhaps brains, tongue, or eyeballs are more to your liking.  We got that, too.   

However, if you’re in the mood to eat the cow’s “family jewels”, you’re just plain out of luck.  There’s a waiting list for that.  When it finally is your turn to purchase this delicacy, you’re gonna have to pay the price, because it is EXPENSIVE!  But, from what I’m told, very worth it.  I think I’ll just take their word for it.

1 comment:

Rlunsford said...

That is fascinating and "yuck" at the same time. What a rich experience! And yet...I really like buying my meat already dead and ready. And knowing exactly what everyone is saying who sells it to me.