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Homowo: Celebrating Thanksgiving Ghana Style

Fall arrives in auburn colors. It grazes our tongues in the form of candy corn during Halloween, then decorates our plates with more shades of brown and orange as we slip into November.

Thanksgiving, Turkey-Doom Day or Having-To-Dine-With-Your-Awkward-Aunt-From-Ohio Day, is a celebration of fresh harvest.

Since the 1790s, America has marked this event with stuffed turkey, sides of buttered corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, bread and steamed vegetables, among other delectable dishes.

Ghana celebrates a similar festival, called the Yam Festival or Homowo, which translates into “to hoot for hunger.” Every year, people rejoice when the crops are ripened and ready for harvest by cooking them in many ways: roasted, boiled, added to soups and stews, fried, mashed or dried and pounded into flour.

“Yams represent people coming together,” said Paul Kofi Asare, owner of the Africa Unite booth, which regularly sells African goods at the Student Union. “In Ghana, we prepare yams and take them to the chief. He blesses the food and then the townspeople can eat it.”

Asare has spent 25 years in Ghana, he came to the U.S. once in the 1980s and again in 2004. Asare said he still prepares dishes with yams in the U.S. and invites family to sit together and eat.

How about this Thanksgiving we invite a bit of Ghana flavor onto our plates? This recipe for yam pie puts a fun, easy and healthy twist on the traditional pumpkin pie. I assure you, after the first whiff of yams from the oven, you will Homowo for seconds.

Recipe for Yam Pie
⅔ cup milk or almond milk
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup cashews
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs or ½ cup applesauce
1 29-ounce can cooked yams or sweet potatoes

1. Preheat oven to 350, and set out pie shell to thaw.
2. In a blender, mix milk, syrup and cashews until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend.
3. Pour into pie shell and bake for about 40 minutes. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight to thicken. Top with whipped cream or soy whipped topping.

Yam Myth: Yams are the same thing as sweet potatoes.
Although in the U.S. the terms are interchangeable, the two are actually from different plant families and look, feel and taste different. Sweet potatoes are smooth with thin skin and are short and blocky with tapered ends whereas yams are rough with scaly skin and are long and cylindrical. Sweet potatoes are more moist and sweet while yams are more dry and starchy.

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