I am pretty confident that whoever invented the term “Slow Cooking Movement” for the western world did not first make a visit to Africa or other similar developing countries. I now know what constitutes slow food and it doesn’t involve a crock pot or soaking your own beans! Slow cooking means rolling out of bed at 5:00 a.m.to the sound of the muezzin calling from the local mosque and getting busy with food preparations for the day.
Spinach anyone? So far, I have encountered about 5 different varieties of spinach, none of which come in a cello bag or are pre-washed or frozen into a small icy-square. These spinach leaves are transported home from the market or from neighbourhood gardens, stems attached, ready for destalking and grinding. The mushing of the spinach leaves is completed in a large wooden mortar using an equally large wooden pestle. This is a stand-up job, often requiring a tag-team approach to completion. Finished? Not yet! The spinach is then divided and laid out to dry in the sun for the majority of the day. Dried spinach may then be rehydrated and cooked into a stew, added to other food items or served on its own as a side vegetable. In its dry form, spinach is also great for packaging and selling.
That’s just one vegetable. One serving of veggies that we may consume twice per day. That’s a lot of work for a small side dish.
How about coconut milk? This staple is used in many dishes, from cassava root stew to (you guessed it) mixing with spinach and other vegetables for a tasty meal accompaniment. Coconuts are also purchased at the market or traded for other kitchen staples with friends and neighbours. To access the coconut milk or juice, a can opener is not required! A simple, yet firm “bonk” on the coconut with a heavy mallet nicely cracks the nut in half, revealing the desired contents. But it’s not over yet. The coconut meat is then shredded, using a cleverly designed stool apparatus which allows the user to sit while also grating. I have practiced the grating of the inside of the coconut and while I would not say I am adept, I do have a little less than three months to master this sweat-inducing activity! The shredded coconut meat is allowed to sit for a while and is then squeezed to obtain every last drop of available liquid. When you are next in the grocery store, comparing the prices of Mr. Gouda to the President’s Choice variety of coconut milk, remember this description of the process in some regions of the world, wipe the bead of sweat from your brow, and carry on.
Slow food? Pshaw!