It’s hard to understate the importance of peanuts in food around the world. One can venture to Vietnam to find peanut sauce accompanying plump spring rolls; Indonesia’s satay and lontong wouldn’t be what they are without the borderline saccharine peanut sauce to envelope the satay skewer; and Latin America’s mole poblano makes a particularly masterful use of the legume.
In the United States, the peanut is used in various dishes and desserts, from the national staple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to peanut salads and peanut butter and chocolate cookies, to bags of peanuts served to sports lovers at baseball games.
These products owe a great debt to George Washington Carver, the master of peanut production as we know it in the U.S. Indeed, the role of peanuts in the American food tapestry wouldn’t be possible without the Black brilliance that created it. So when I traveled to Accra, Ghana, during the “Year of Return” — a Ghanaian marker of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of slaves in Jamestown, Virginia — I was thrilled to find groundnut soup, a dish rooted in the salty, delightful groundnut that was reflective of West African cuisine.
When I chose to go to Ghana during the Year of Return, it was in part because of a thesis I was working on for my graduate degree, but also to return to a country that spurred years of travel and learning across the world during my young adult life. As a Black American from Houston, Texas, with roots throughout the South, I don’t have much knowledge of my ancestral background in Africa, but I knew of the slave trade history in Ghana and always found it important to prioritize Black and African life in my academic work and personal travel endeavors. Thus, doing my thesis work during the Year of Return six years after my first visit to Ghana on a study abroad trip felt both like a privilege and an inevitable journey home to a place that had given so much historical grounding.
At the suggestion of a friend who knew I had an affinity for all things related to peanuts, I made sure to eat groundnut soup during the first week of my trip in Ghana. Groundnut soup (sometimes…