Tom Brown Porridge

Ghana’s Tom Brown Porridge

Tom Brown Porridge

Ghana’s Tom Brown Porridge.

What is in a name?

Enough on this occasion to make me wonder.

I do not know why this toasted cornmeal porridge is known popularly in Ghana as Tom Brown. If you do please do let me know in the comments section below. I do know, however, that the name Tom (Thomas) has Hebrew origins and it means twins. Brown,  apparently is the fourth second most common surname in Canada and Scotland, third most common in Australia and fourth most common in England and the United States. Tom and Brown or as a combination are as alien to Ghana as American Apple pie is to the proverbial Timbuktu.

Ablemamu is what my grandmother used to call Tom Brown in her local Ga dialect though, so my guess is that “Tom Brown” must be a post-colonial era adoption. In the olden days, certainly before Tom Brown started rubbing shoulders with Quaker Oats and Kellogs Cornflakes on supermarket shelves in Ghana, it was made from scratch. You started by dry roasting corn which was removed from the fire before the corn begun to pop like, you guessed it, pop corn. The roasted corn was then left to cool and ground to a fine powdery form to become Tom Brown.

Doing this from scratch could almost be therapeutic. For some, including moi it will probably be like listening to Adomaa reminisce and indulge in a collection of some of the finest memories and sounds of Ghana’s musical heritage.

As a high school pupil, I recall a time when the Ghana government in response to malnutrition in children promoted Tom Brown mixed with protein rich cowpeas or soybeans and groundnuts as a great meal for weaning babies. Weanimix was the name dreamed up by government officials for this weaning food, made predominantly out of locally sourced and in some ways easily available cheap ingredients. Arguably, the name Weanimix certainly had a better ring to it than Cerelac. However, unlike Cerelac Weanimix did not stand the test of time. Take away the cowpeas, soybeans and groundnuts and what you have, however, is the centuries old porridge, Ablemamu (Tom Brown). That has stood the test of time.

Ironically Ghana’s Tom Brown was not super popular in my household when growing up. Tea with copious amounts of evaporated milk and cubed sugar and a slice or two of buttered locally baked bread was what I had before school. Either that or we just skipped the entire concept of a light breakfast for the jugular – Red RedRice and Stew or other rice based dishes like Waakye from a street vendor. Those heady days of “fast and furious” metabolisms are well and truly over. Breakfast has now mostly been replaced with cereal with fresh milk when I can manage to trick myself that I am not lactose intolerant. More recently though, an old classic – Tom Brown – has come to the fore. Easy to make with that unique roasted corn taste and now usually packaged in durable “Cornflakes” like boxes, It is now my number one breakfast, porridge or otherwise, of choice.

Important Note if Tom Brown is used for weaning:

“In Ghana, mothers conventionally fed their children complementary foods made with flour from cereals. A common mix made with roasted corn is known as Tom Brown. But the purely corn flour based Tom brown need to be modified to add proteins when used as weaning for infants. The Ghana Health Service and UNICEF began teaching women’s groups how to make a modified weaning food recipe during the 1980s: the new mix combined 4-parts cereal (maize) and 1-part legume (soybeans, cowpeas, and groundnuts). The legumes added protein crucial to infants’ health.”

Excerpt from : Gobalisationanddevelopment.com

Ghana’s Tom Brown Porridge recipe:

Ghana's Tom Brown Porridge

Bag of Tom Brown from a local market bought in Ghana

Ghana's Tom Brown Porridge

Get the recipe for Tom Brown



There are 16 comments

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    • MyWeku Tastes

      Thanks for your question Jacinta, Tom Brown is made from toasted corn which is then ground into a flour (which is what you see – the powdery substance in the plastic bag above in the post). The next steps as explained above involves adding water to cook it into a porridge. You are right, it is rich but that is mostly as a result of the milk and sugar that is added to give it that creamy and rich look and taste 🙂

  1. Kusi

    Tom Brown : the appelation comes from the novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays, a book that was read by pupils of some “international schhols” in Ghana in the early to mid sixties.

    • MyWeku Tastes

      Hi Uncle Steve

      Like most indigenous African foods, convenience has led to some like, Tom brown, being sold premade in a pre-packaged container. In my view this does not take too much away from their authenticity but as you can imagine nothing quiet beats the “real” thing – usually made fresh at home using not factory processes but simple traditional processes passed down over centuries.

      Thanks for your question and we hope this answers it.

      MWT

  2. The nutty Ghana Tom Brown porridge | MyWeku Tastes

    […] First of all, Tom Brown porridge is a big deal on this blog. Goodness knows how many folks drop by to ask all sorts of questions about it on here. How is it prepared? What are the ingredients? Is the foreign Tom Brown different to the Ghana version? These and other questions have all been answered here – Ghana’s Tom Brown porridge. […]

  3. Fola

    Please where do I get Tom brown baby food in Nigeria.. I need a quick response as I want to start it for my baby asap.. Cos just breastmilk isnt enough for him anymore…Pls help a mother!!

    • MyWeku Tastes

      Hello Fola

      We have searched online for possible places in Nigeria where you could find Tom Brown but no luck. If anyone of our Naija readers can help please do tell us.

      Have you considered making it yourself from scratch though? That might be your best bet. If you are willing to try the basic Tom Brown instructions are below:

      1. Get some corn on the cob which is common in Nigeria
      2. Dry these or better still get some already dried ones that have been separated from the cob
      3. Roast the corn until they turn brown.
      4. If you have a spice grinder use it to grind the roasted corn. It will probably be better to grind first in a pestle and mortar to break the corn down a little. Or you can take the roasted corn to the local mill to be ground for you
      6. The result i.e. the flour from the ground roasted corn is what we call the Tom Brown mix – seen above in the article.

      Follow the recipe above after that.

      I hope this helps.

    • Evans Osei Wiafe

      Also, to make an already balanced Tom Brown, you can add groundnuts and cowpeas or soybeans, which is roasted and ground together with the maize. With this, your child will get good amounts of protein and fats, even when milk has not been added.

  4. Emmanuel Britwum

    Are there any packaged tom brown (flour) products that are suitable for infants local made and sold in Ghana? Can you please give me names and where i could find them.

  5. Uchechi

    Hi readers, interesting conversation so far.
    Tombrown is an excellent nutritional meal for babies, growing children and adults as well.
    I prepare it myself and sell it in small sizes which cost N500 and larger packs which cost N2,000, I also sell soyabean powder which is a healthier alternative to our regular cowmilk. The small packs cost N400 and the larger packs cost N1,800. If you’re interested you can call me on 08033465421. Uche


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