Tuesday, January 7th, 2020
Home tastes of herring, at least for Selassie Atadika. "We often had that," she says. "Herring with tomato, with green chili, fried herring." It is six in the morning in Accra and Atadika is buying fish. Ghana has a rainy season – herring season.
The mist over the sea mixes with the smoke of the incense, the sea air with the smell of the fish market. Last night's catch is on wooden tables. Atadika lets the silver fish bodies slide through her fingers, smells them, feels them. "They look good," she says. "I'll take it with me."
Selassie Atadika, 43, was born in Ghana but grew up in New York. For five years she has been running a restaurant in Accra, the "Midunu". She came back to Ghana, her parents' home, to reinvent West African cuisine. Atadika studied in the USA, worked in Liberia, lived in Kosovo. She could have opened her restaurant anywhere, in London, in Paris, in Barcelona. But she wanted to go here, to Accra, to the Ghanaian capital. "My culinary home has always been Ghana," she says.
Even though many Ghanaians leave their homeland in search of work, many of those who have lived abroad for a long time are now coming back. Ghana's economy is growing, the capital is booming. The New York Times writes that Accra is the "Capital of Cool", the cool capital of Africa. There are sushi restaurants and French bistros, expensive Italians and fusion cuisine. But: In the "cool capital" of Africa there was not a single, upscale African restaurant. Until Atadika came.
Nana Kofi Acquah
Dish with herring by Selassie Atadika
The "Midunu" lies behind a sun-bleached wall in a small side street. It opened five years ago. "African food," says Atadika, "is a glass of water and a bowl of air." She has heard this joke again and again in the West. Africa has a lot to offer, but certainly not good food. That's why she founded her restaurant – she cooks against these prejudices.
And: It saves old Ghanaian recipes. Because more and more dishes are lost in Ghana. "In the 30 years that my family no longer lives here," she says, "many of the recipes my mother still cooks in New York have been forgotten here."
The "Midunu" is going well, the tables are fully occupied. Here the Accra photographers, architects and journalists discuss between African art and tropical plants. It is the hip bubble of the Ghanaian capital. "More and more Ghanaians are coming," says Atadika, "but most of the guests are foreigners."
This is not a question of money, but one of attitude. Ghana's middle and upper classes are growing and she is also spending money on food, but not on Ghanaian cuisine. For many Ghanians, eating chic still means: Italian, French, Japanese food.
But that will change, Atadika is convinced of that. "There's so much going on in Accra," she says. Ghanaians would soon understand that their own cuisine is worth as much as sushi and Chateaubriand.
More about Selassie Atadika's recipes and restaurant – here in the photo gallery:
"Eating is often just an impetus for bigger issues"
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