J.G. Jackson, Resident of Morocco for 16 years at the end of the 18th Century and connoisseur of local cultures, provides the following information on basic foods of Northwest Africa. Kouskous, the first food, is a basic staple all of the way down to the Senegal River:
Kuscasoe is, flour moistened with water, and granulated with the hand to the size of partridge-shot. It is then put into a steamer uncovered, under which fowls, or mutton, and vegetables, such as onions, and turnips, are put to boil:
When the steam is seen to pass through the kuscasoe it is taken off and shook in a bason, to prevent the adhesion of the grains; and then put in the steamer again, and steamed a second time.
When it is taken off, some butter, salt, pepper, and saffron, are mixed with it, and it is served up in a large bowl. The top is garnished with the fowl or mutton, and the onions and turnips.
When the saffron has made it the colour of straw, it has received the proper quota.
This is, when properly cooked, a very palatable and nutritious dish.
Hassua is gruel boiled, and then left over the fire two hours. It is made with barley not ground into flour, but into small particles the size of sparrow-shot.
It is a very salubrious food for breakfast, insomuch that they have a proverb which intimates that physicians need never go to those countries wherein the inhabitants break their fast with hassua.
Hasseeda is barley roasted in an earthen pan, then powdered in a mortar, and mixed with cold water, and drank. This is the travelling food of the country–of the Arab, the Moor, the Berebber, the Shelluh, and the Negro; and is universally used by travellers in crossing the Sahara: the Akkabas that proceed from Akka and Tatta to Timbuctoo, Houssa, and Wangara, are always provided with a sufficient quantity of this simple restorative to the hungry stomach.
D’s Note: In Sudan (northern) ‘Hasseda’ is pronounced ‘3asiida’. It is the basic starch, generally made of sorghum or millet flour that is boiled with water until rather thick, and replaces bread. It is always accompanied by a dipping sauce.
In this way, basic travelling foods found their way across Africa with the caravan trade, often utilizing grains that were available in a given place.