Thursday, 3 October 2013

It's Tradition, the Ghanaian Way

An Anlo man fell in love with and married a Fanti woman. Since they both hailed from coastal towns, they liked to eat fish, especially fried fish. The lady was a really good cook and her husband was always more than satisfied with her food. However, the man had one complaint. Before frying, his wife would cut the fish into small portions and he preferred his fish fried whole.

After being quiet about this oddity in her fish frying method for a while, he finally decided to ask about it. According to his wife, cutting fish into smaller portions was the right way to fry fish. It made the fish taste better and besides, it was Fanti tradition. He wasn't too convinced about this explanation. In his opinion, the cut fried fish didn't taste any better than fried whole but when he pointed that out, his wife became unhappy. Not too keen to offend her he decided to let it be.

His mother-in-law came to visit one weekend and asked her about the fish cutting. His mother-in-law gave him an almost similar answer to his wife. Still he wasn't satisfied with explanation but decided to let it go for a while.

Somewhere around Christmas, the family decided to visit the wife's grandmother and he took the opportunity to ask his usual questions. According to Grandma, when she got married, the frying pan her husband bought was quite small and most times, the fish was too big to fit into it. She therefore decided to be cutting the fish before frying just so the fish could fit into the frying pan. Her daughter who learnt to cook from her picked it up and in turn taught his wife.

Granda said no one ever asked her why she always cut fish before frying and she hadn't really given much thought to telling anyone why she did so. It wasn't tradition, it was just done for convenience.

I grew up in a family where asking questions was encouraged. Even when we didn't have questions to ask Dad would ask why we thought something was the way it was. The answer didn't have to be right but you had to give your honest opinion no matter how outlandish it was. If we were wrong, Dad would tell us the right answer or give us a book to read.

Unfortunately, this isn't a very acceptable thing in the Ghanaian community. Most adults found it disrespectful when I asked questions. I got in trouble quite often for asking questions that were perfectly acceptable at home. It's not socially accepted for a child to know more than an adult or question adults in anyway.
Most things have perfectly logical explanations but the Ghanaian way it to credit it to some supernatural force or simply say it's tradition. Questioning the status quo often leads being branded a heretic or disrespectful.  Sadly, most people can't be bothered to find out for themselves the reason things are the way they are. "It's tradition" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

(Loosely based on a popular children's story)