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Traditional Cooking Utensils

My Magazine 2022/03
3 min
Some cooking utensils are a must-have in the local kitchens in traditional compounds. When a lady marries, the first gift from their parents is a wooden mortar, used for pounding either pepper, onion, garlic, or rice, coos, groundnuts, e.t.c.

Apart from mortar, you will most certainly find colanders, cooking pots, wooden spoons and sieves in the local kitchen. Most of those are made locally, out of natural materials (apart from aluminium). They are still massively used in the kitchens.

Ladies in the compound would usually prepare lunch for bigger groups of people. This means they would have to use cooking utensils that allow the preparation of larger quantities of the food.

The mortar and pestle itself usually measure about 40 cm tall. Homemakers generally own two. One is intended to pound the spicy ingredients mostly used in the local cuisine, while the other is used to prepare the porridges, akara, ebbeh or pounding of the rest of the grains. Mortars are made out of different types of wood which demands taking proper care of the utensil. It needs to be cleaned with a brush, dried and stored to allow circulation of the air.

Most of the local kitchens would allow cooking on the open fire. This means there is a need for a wood or charcoal burner. There are many different types on the market. Still, the most typically used are the simple round wood burners that allow the pot to be placed above the firewood and charcoal burner where the pot is placed directly on the charcoal.

The pots are usually big, holding at least 10l, but you can also find pots that can hold up to 50L and are used to prepare food for ceremonies and celebrations. Those pots are mainly made out of aluminum. This is an excellent way of local recycling where tins of soft drinks like coca-cola or Fanta are being collected and later melted to create pots for cooking.

Each homemaker should have at least two burners and two pots to prepare rice and the sauce simultaneously and make lunch preparation faster. Since pots are exposed to direct fire, they can soon become black. To protect the pots, many locals use a mixture of sand and water to cover the outsides of the pot before exposing it to fire. The others use a mixture of sand, cleaning products, and water to rub on the pot to remove the blackened parts of the bottom of the pot.

Rice, one of the most commonly used grains in the Gambia, needs to be washed before being boiled. The best utensil for this process is a calabash bowl, which allows easy circulating movements. It is also used to cleanse other grains like coos, cherreh or carraway or crush sorrel and tomatoes. It is advised to be washed with a metal scourer and occasionally with lime juice. Before being stored, it needs to be appropriately dried, avoiding direct sunlight.

The best rice is steamed rice. In this process, a colander is needed - a utensil with small holes which is placed on top of the pot of boiling water and tied to it with the piece of material to ensure an airtight process of steaming. It can either be made out of clay, but nowadays, most households use a metal one.

Especially on the farms where rice is being produced for household consumption, sieves and winnowers are also well-used utensils. Traditionally, they are knitted out of palm leaves. Nowadays, modern sieves are used, made locally out of old tins and nets or imported from outside.

Wooden spoons and bowls are still used in remote villages where plastic and ceramic plates with metal cutlery haven't become a trend yet. There is, however, a very low need for having cutlery apart from spoons. Rice is mostly still eaten by hand, and soups and porridges are eaten with small calabash spoons. Big wooden spoons are used for stirring while cooking and serving the food.

If you want to learn more about cooking utensils and how to use them, book your trip with us and visit a traditional compound where you will be welcomed by the family with which you will spend the whole day. 

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