Visiting this compound was one of the highlights of my day. We heard women laughing and whacking and we went to see what they were doing. In the back of their compound, we found this work area where women were gathered, young and old, preparing cassava root to make attiéké–the main food eaten here.
I think they were amazed to meet a stranger interested in what they were doing. I told them I wanted to show my friends at home how attiéké is made and they laughed, as if to say, “don’t your friends know??”
The main food where I lived in Nigeria was also cassava, but there it was made into gari and foofoo. Attiéké is a bit different, but the preparation is similar. First you begin by peeling off the bark of the root. Then the cassava is cut into pieces. These ladies were working hard and fast. Even the little girls had big knives and sure hands.
I think we had 3 generations of women working together here today. They were happy and I could tell they enjoyed being together.
I wonder how many headpans of cassava have passed through this woman’s hands.
The next generations:
After the pieces are cut, they are washed to be as clean as possible.
Take a look at this process again here:
These women were delightful and we had a fun time together. The next compound we came to had just one woman working alone on the next step of the process.
Here’s how Wikipedia describes the next steps:
The cassava is peeled, grated and mixed with a small amount of cassava that was previously fermented which is the starter. The paste is left to ferment for one or two days. Once the fermentation time is over and the hydrocyanic acid that exists in a large proportion in natural cassava has been removed, the pulp is dewatered, screened, and dried, and then the final cooking is done by steaming the pulp. After a few minutes of cooking, the attiéké is ready for consumption.
This is the dewatering, screening and drying part:
This is the press where they squeeze the water out of bagged grated cassava:
Now this woman is screening it:
Then it will be spread to dry. The final cooking is done by steaming the pulp in a steamer like this:
Then the attiéké is ready to eat! Usually it’s served from a communal bowl with a sauce made from local greens, or tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
In town you can buy a serving of attiéké for about 20 cents. It’s sold in little plastic bags tied in a knot. It’s the fast food of the Ivory Coast and everyone loves it. I enjoyed seeing the process today. It is no small thing these women do to feed their families.