Maame Amma Brewoo is a senior undergraduate majoring in International Studies with certificates in Digital Studies and African Studies. She was born in Accra, Ghana, and immigrated to Madison, Wisconsin with her family at age four. In this AFRICA IN OUR LIVES, Brewoo describes her recent work in promoting Ghanaian culinary traditions here in the United States.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current project?
Ghanastronomy with Maame, a recently developed brand, encompasses all three areas of my academic study and is fused with my passion for culinary arts. Ghanastronomy with Maame (@ghanastronomy) is an interactive, multi-media platform dedicated to exploring the gastronomical flavors, fusions, and excellency of Ghanaian cuisine. Through a series of blog posts, videos, and podcasts, the goal is to adopt a gastronomical lens while enabling an immersion into the world of food as a cultural means for artisanal expression. Throughout this semester, I have been working closely with Professor Reginold Royston from our very own African Cultural Studies Department and iSchool, to make the project a reality through an independent study. More specifically, the aim of the independent study is to dissect and understand the concept of Ghanaian gastronomy, its function within the digital media scope and its presence in the global culinary stage. Through the practice of enhancing technical digital media skills via video production, podcasting, graphic & web design etc., utilizing social networking sites and their technological affordances as a tool in digital media marketing, and engaging with scholarly works, Ghanastronomy with Maame embodies the swift transformation from academic interests into a professional career. Check out www.ghanastronomy.com to stay connected!
Why is the connection between food and culture so important to study, and why is it important to you personally?
If you think about it, it’s almost impossible to talk about food without mentioning its relationship to our lived experience as humans. Its permeance in our everyday lives is undeniable, and without food we as humans simply cease to exist. Furthermore, if we think about food beyond its functional purpose as a source of sustenance, we arrive at a much deeper understanding behind its relationship with culture, and that’s where the concept of gastronomy comes in. Gastronomy, or simply the relationship between food and culture, examines this connection as a distinctive process that combines the social, political, and environmental components of any dish in any context. By studying gastronomy, we are able to expand this network of shared information while encompassing the historical & cultural traditions of our ancestors within a modern context.
As a native of Accra, Ghana who immigrated to the states at the age of 4, my earliest memories as a child revolve around the foods that I grew up eating and still enjoy to this day. In fact, I’ll admit to enjoying Nestle’s Cerelac (basically baby food with nutrient fortifications) from time to time just to relive those memories I had as a kid (also just because it tastes even better as an adult)! Upon leaving the warm of Accra, the Brewoos also brought along their taste for Ghanaian cuisine and traditions, even when forced to acclimate to life in the tundra-like, dairy land capital of the world. Thankfully, they decided to stay true to their roots, so much so that they wanted to share their love for food and culture with the rest of the Midwest. In 2005, the Brewoo family launched their catering and vending business, Taste of Africa, and continue to sell Ghanaian delights like kenkey, meatpie, jollof rice & chicken to name a few. In many respects, gastronomy is an invitation to a world of both the familiar and the new that encompasses not one, not two, but all five senses afforded by the human experience.
What is your favorite Ghanaian dish?
Kenkey or dorkunu would have to be one of my favorites hands down. Originally from the Ga people of Ghana, this fermented corn dough is also eaten within countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Guyana, and Jamaica. I have fond memories of waking up early on Saturday mornings just make this delicacy with my mom, and Grandma when she visited the states. They would wait about a week or so for the corn dough to ferment properly, and after passing the test of quality assurance, they began the process. My mom was usually the one who took the fermented dough and transformed it into a hot, sticky consistency ready for shaping. That’s when my grandma steps in; she would take a heaping handful of the dough, apply it the corn husk, and wrap the husk around the dough to retain a ball-like shape. My job was to further ensure the retention of its shape by tightly saran-wrapping and twisting the kenkey into its finally form before entering the pot. Next, I would carefully arrange the kenkey into the pots and my mom or grandma would pour water into the pots and let it boil. When all the water disappears, the kenkey is fully cooked and ready to eat! Kenkey is eaten with the hands and is typically accompanied by scotch bonnet & tomato pepper sauce, fresh tomatoes, fresh onion, fried fish, fried shrimps, and shito (a hot pepper sauce with shrimp, fish & ginger). Part of what makes this dish a favorite of mine is not only its impeccable taste, but also the special memories I hold of bonding with my mom and grandma whilst making kenkey.
On a similar note, do you have any favorite places to eat in Madison?
Sadly, there are currently no Ghanaian restaurants in Madison besides my family’s catering & vending business, but there is a decent-sized Ghanaian and African community here in Madison. With that said, I take advantage of community-led events where people bring their dishes for all to enjoy as a way to get my in cravings for a taste of Africa! When forced to submit to the biased food scene in Madison that caters to virtually every continent in the world, except of course the origin of all continents, I like to enjoy the typical burger, cheese curds and truffle fries from the DLUX (hands-down the best burger joint in town). Another place you’ll likely find me stuffing my face with pad thai, crab meat wontons and bean-thread noodles, is none other than Ha Long Bay, also known as literally the best place in Madison for Thai, Vietnamese & Laotian cuisine! As for my health-driven cravings, I love to indulge in a hearty salad from SaladsUP, aka the best salad bar in town, as well as Bowl of Heaven, a plant-based acai bowl & smoothie shop here in Madison. I’ve had the pleasure of working at both SaladsUP and Bowl of Heaven as a Shift/Team Leader throughout my collegiate experience.
Where do you see yourself five years after graduation?
Post-Graduation, I see myself as a creator, author, gastronomist & food-entrepreneur. I have plans to find the funding to move to London, attend a culinary arts program to master my skills and expertise with food and hopes to continue my family’s legacy of sharing Ghanaian Gastronomy with the world. I also plan to build Ghanastronomy with Maame as a professional career where I will travel the world critiquing food, creating recipes, starring in cooking shows & television networks, and eventually owning a unique restaurant/catering experience!
Published by Rebecca Hanks.