Ghana’s 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 Red, Rice 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: