Cuisines and Crops of Africa: More about Plantains and ‘Truth in Packaging’ in the 19th Century

Sir Baker gives a nice description of using plantain leaves in packaging – and what we would call ‘truth in packaging’ – in northern Uganda

… The butter was invariably packed in a plantain leaf, but frequently the package was plastered with cow dung and clay, which, when dry, formed a hard coating, and protected it from the air; this gave it a bad flavour, and we returned it to the dealer as useless.

A short time after, he returned with fresh butter in a perfectly new green leaf, and we were requested to taste it. Being about the size and shape of a cocoa-nut, and wrapped carefully in a leaf with only the point exposed, I of course tasted from that portion, and approving the flavour, the purchase was completed.

We were fairly cheated, as the butter dealer had packed the old rejected butter in a fresh leaf, and had placed a small piece of sweet butter on the top as a tasting point. They constantly attempted this trick.

Selling small pieces of goat meat, displayed on plantain leaves, in a market upcountry where I train agricultural technical staff from time to time. Residents in this area have no electricity and no running water.

In the following entry, Baker mentions the tiny packets that merchants make when selling goods.  One reason for this – perhaps not perceived by Baker – is the poverty of many local folk who can only purchase small amounts and second, lack of cool weather or  lack of refrigeration.  This is still the case today, as seen in the above picture that I took in a rural market upcountry.

As retailers they took extraordinary pains to divide everything into minimum packets, which they sold for a few beads, always declaring that they had only one packet to dispose of, but immediately producing another when that was sold.

This method of dealing was exceedingly troublesome, as it was difficult to obtain supplies in any quantity. My only resource was to send Saat (one of the staff) to market daily to purchase all he could find, and he usually returned after some hours’ absence with a basket containing coffee, tobacco, and butter.

The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile And Explorations of the Nile Sources.

by Sir Samuel W. Baker, M.A., F.R.G.S.


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Colonialism, Explorers & exploration, Food. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Cuisines and Crops of Africa: More about Plantains and ‘Truth in Packaging’ in the 19th Century

  1. Pingback: Plantain Leaf 2 Oz Package

  2. Pingback: New York Restaurants – Perfect Spot for Foodies With New Tastes |

  3. Pingback: ❤ Homemade Apple Juice with Wild Plantain & Beets-Nutrition of Beet Recipes-Free Juicing Recipes :Single Gear Juice

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