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Celebrating the African ‘soul food’ called fufu

Halifax chef cooks a traditional meal to challenge social-media shade

3 min read
Steaming soup and two kinds of fufu.
caption Mary Nkrumah prepared steaming soup (l) and two kinds of fufu (r). She taught workshop participants how to make the meal, then she served it for sampling.
Eva Eusanio

The “Eat Fufu with Mary” workshop filled the second floor of the Halifax Central Library with smells of spiced chicken, rich soup and fufu, a beloved Central and West African doughy ball eaten with soup.

Local chef and businesswoman Mary Nkrumah led the workshop to teach people about fufu, which she refers to as an “African soul food”. It was part of African Heritage Month festivities.

Nkrumah’s restaurant, Mary’s African Cuisine, is located on Barrington Street. The restaurant’s walls sport hand-written chalkboard menus filled with staples of African cuisine. Fufu is one of them.

She said she organized the Feb. 8 event to challenge bad fufu reviews on social media.

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Mary Nkrumah and her assistant Genevieve
caption Mary Nkrumah (L) and her assistant prepare for their “Eat Fufu with Mary” workshop at the Halifax Central Library on Feb. 8. Fufu is a doughy ball eaten with soup. The dish originates from West Africa.
Eva Eusanio

“Fufu is trending on TikTok nowadays,” Nkrumah told The Signal prior to the workshop. The “fufu challenge” on TikTok is a trend in which creators record their reactions as they try fufu for the first time. Some slap the fufu and make sour faces as they eat it.

“That is not how we eat our food,” Nkrumah said. “So much goes into it and how we make it. So, we eat it with respect.”

Her downtown Halifax restaurant serves recipes she learned from moments in the kitchen with her mother. Nkrumah is originally from Ghana, where she watched her mother and grandmother work hard to prepare their food.

“So, when they serve it to you, you respect the food and respect the one who made it for you as well.”

Receptive crowd

Workshop attendees took notes during Nkrumah’s cooking demonstration and asked questions about temperature, spices and ingredients. Nkrumah explained every step to the audience as she cooked a big pot of soup and fufu.

Goat and fufu
caption Goat and fufu is a culinary staple in Mary Nkrumah’s native Ghana.
Mary's African Cuisine

After Nkrumah finished her cooking demonstration every participant got a bowl of soup and fufu to eat. As they tried the fufu, they made “mmm” sounds and nodded their heads in agreement. Nkrumah’s pot of soup and fufu were gone by the end of the workshop.

“Fufu is soul food,” Nkrumah told them. “To have fufu and feel at home is to have it with family. It brings family together, and it brings a community together.”

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