10 common utensils in the preparation of food in Africa
There are utensils in food preparation and cooking that are unique to Africa. Here are some!
In modern Africa, many families have switched to cooking utensils made of metal, ceramic and other materials, especially when using modern stoves for cooking, such as electric or gas fires. However, the traditional clay pot is still a favorite for many.
The traditional pot is made of clay and then fired in an oven. The processes involved in the production of a cooking pot and a water pot are different, as a water pot only needs to keep the water cold and not resist fire.
The traditional cooking pot is often used over an open fire, such as a wood fire, or in a hearth, or over a charcoal burner. The earthy smell of the pot gives a unique flavor to the food. Fresh beans or meat simmered in a pot tastes quite different than when cooked in a metal pan.
The insulating qualities of the crock pot also slow down the cooking process, further enhancing the flavor of the food.
2. Mortar and pestle
A mortar and pestle used to be standard equipment in many African homes, and often still is. A mortar and pestle was used when pounding grains such as millet or sorghum to separate the chaff from the grain.
In West Africa, cooked yam or cocoyam are also pounded into foo-foo. In Uganda, roasted peanuts are crushed into an odii paste, while raw peanuts are crushed into ebinyewa groundnut powder.
The African mortar and pestle is large for vigorous pounding, unlike its common counterpart in Western cooking, which is a small utensil for gently rubbing spices.
3. Mixing stick
Most African kitchens have a mixing stick, or even a whole collection of them. They are made of wood and come in all sizes and many different shapes. The most common is the wooden mixing stick with a flat head, used for stirring food, but more often for mixing posho, ugali or kuon – cornmeal bread or millet flour.
Every woman has a favorite mixing stick that she says produces the best results!
In many communities, a gourd is a special and highly practical utensil. A gourd is a climbing plant, which produces a long or round fruit. When this fruit ripens and dries out, it makes a very useful container. A mature pumpkin is usually brown or golden in color. The woody interior is hollowed out and cleaned.
The Kalenjin of western Kenya use their gourds to ferment milk. And of course, every woman has her own favorite pumpkin.
When a pumpkin is cut lengthwise in two, one then has two pumpkins, which are very useful for serving drinks. The clean, woody smell of drinking water in a gourd is unique. In northern Uganda, visitors were often served homemade beer in gourds.
Various ethnic communities in Africa also use gourds as musical instruments, including the Acoli of northern Uganda and communities in West Africa, such as Mali.
6. Winning tray
A winnowing tray, or several, remains a prized utensil in many African homes. A winnowing tray is woven from reeds and is useful for sorting grain. After pounding or threshing, the maize, millet, sorghum, rice, simsim, and groundnuts are winnowed into a pan to separate the grain from the chaff.
In some communities, special reed trays are also used to serve food on festive occasions.
In many communities, a grinding stone was the centerpiece of the kitchen. Some farms had a hut or mill house, where several grinding stones of various sizes were housed, for grinding millet, sorghum or odii. Grindstones have gradually been replaced by mills.
As in any other kitchen, knives are also important in the preparation of African food. However, traditional knives differed from modern ones. In Uganda, for example, a short double-edged knife was popular for peeling matoke (cooking bananas) and for shredding fish or skinning slaughtered animals.
All kitchens in the world use seats. Sieves in Africa are now mostly made of metal or plastic. Traditionally, they were woven with soft reeds. They were used to sift flour or beer before serving.
In many homes, shards of broken pottery and broken gourds were valuable utensils. In Acoli culture, for example, pumpkin shards were prized to smooth millet bread before serving. Apparently nothing worked quite as well as a piece of broken pumpkin. And of course, each woman had her favorite bits!
Winnowing trays, mixing sticks, gourds, sieves, gourds, and cooking pots were, and often still are, included in the gifts a new bride receives to set up her home.
As new foods and new methods of food preparation become established on the continent, new utensils will also replace the old ones. In fact, new labor-saving devices are welcome everywhere.
However, the allure of traditional African cookware cannot always be entirely denied.