Pap: African Cuisine

1. Who eat cassava, who eat maize in Africa.2. Two different types of cassava: bitter and sweet3. Different techniques and steps to making pap.

Have you ever eaten cassava pap, corn pap, sorghum or any other cereal pap? This is a kind of food dominating African meal from West to East as well as the whole part of Southern Africa.

Preparation of cassava pap is different from the cereal one. It is much tougher and longer to make cassava pap than maize pap for example.

Here are the procedures:

a. Cassava:

There are two types of cassavas: bitter cassava and sweet one. Bitter cassavas are not edible fresh because their bitterness react like venom plants: there is a high probability of dying after eating them. Human beings know them and are careful for that kind of cassava but animals like all herbivores succumb to them easily. Even if they eat cassava leaves in abundance, they die of poison. The most victim of cassava are goats, sheep and sometimes cows. They eat cassavas while grazzing outside in farms.

Contrary, people eat either sweet cassava freshly from the ground or later by drying them and grinding them to give cassava flour.

Both bitter and sweet give pap after preparation. First of all people dig them and put them in water (in a well or any container of water most of the times a barrel). Two alternative ways apply: some people put cassava bulbs in water after peeling them while others do not. When peeled, it takes less time in water but other way takes as many days as a week. After this time people take them out, peel them if not peeled before, wash them and dry them on either a mat, leaves of bananas or on sand for people who have access to the shores of the rivers, lakes and oceans. Depending on the way of drying them, people get white cassava or gray ones. The taste may be the same but the choice of coulor is different from one person to other one.

After drying them enough, people can eat them by cooking them together with beans or peas(not called pap this time) or chewing one or two depending on the muscles of one's jaw.

In most of the times people grind them using mortar, sieving them to get soft flour (traditional methods). The technique is old but it is still used in most of remote and impoverished parts of Africa. Otherwise people put them in milling machines where it is possible to precise different degrees or numbers of softness.

b. Cereal Flour

It is much easier to get cereal flour than cassava. Take for example maize: It is a matter of grinding dry maize to get flour ready for the pap. Cassava in other hands takes time to soak, peel,dry and grind them.

How to make pap?

It is not difficult but it requires experience.

There are steps to follow:

1.Bring water to boil in your cooking pot. Put cold water in a small bowl and using your fist or a spoon scoop a little of flour and then put it into the bowl, mix it to make a cold porridge.

2.Put some hot water aside to be used later if necessary while making pap and then pour the porridge in your boiling water (in cooking pot on the oven or any fire). Cover the pot with a lid. When it boils again, start to add more flour little by little stiring continously.

3.A wooden spoon is likely to be used to stir inside the pot; one hand handles the pot while the other uses the spoon to mix and stir the pastry inside the pot.

4.Add hot water (from aside) if the mixture is too hard to turn around and continue to stir and monitor the pot not to cook it over.

5.Make it like a big ball in the pot using the spoon.

6."To unload" the pap, people use either the same spoon to take it out or experienced people cover the pot with a plate (most of the times plastic one) or a lid and then take the pot upside- down, holding the plate or lid. The whole pastry comes out.

7.Leave it covered by the pot upside-down while you warm up your sauce.

This method of cooking pap takes less than 10 minutes if boiling water is ready. Good pap makers have a technique to taste if the pap is ready to take it off the fire. They cut a small portion in their fist, paste it like a ball, toss it and throw it on the wall opposite of their sight. When it glues on the wall hence, it is not well done. When it leaps up certainly that is what is most wanted.

While Africans from Central and West Africa eat mainly cassava pap, those from Eastern and Southern parts eat corn pap in their lunch times and dinners. The rest of the dinner is kept for the children who use it as breakfast. They may even take it along with their mothers while going to cultivate early mornings even others take it to school as provision. But, as the pap gets cold, it becomes harder and tougher.

People in Africa eat pap as many times as possible. It is a pre-dominant meal for Black Africans. The only change comes to the sauce: one time or another, there are fishes, beans, cassava leaves, different vegetables, meat and sometimes people use porridge where sauce or soup is scarce.

Because of eating pap many times, "pap cooking" has become an expression of reference to say if people have finished to eat or not yet. If a guest arrives late after eating, people say: "we are sorry, we have finished to make our pap", to mean they finished the meal. Or they say we have not cooked our pap yet if he comes before eating. These expressions apply for all kind of meals. Even days when people are eating for example rice, still, the same cooking pap expression applies.

While both cassava and maize are grown in the West, Central and East Africa, the Southern part grows maize mainly. Few people in the whole region know cassava and a small number has tasted it.

It takes more time to grow cassava than maize. Fortunately it demands little care. Sweet cassava takes not less than 12 months of growing and the bitter almost 2 years.

Although other cereals like sorghum, barley and wheat give as good pap as corn maize, Africans rather use them in most of times to brew beers and use cassava and corn for their daily cuisine.

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