How to eat fufu in Ghana, Africa

When traveling, experiencing the food of a culture can be one of the most exciting parts of the journey. Not only can you learn a lot about a group of people by their dining etiquette, but eating itself is fun.

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Recently, I was lucky enough to take a trip toGhana in Western Africa where dining rules and the cuisine itself differ greatly from that of Western culture. One specialty that is a local favorite, as well as a dish on every visitor’s list of foods to try, is fufu.

At first glance, fufu looks just like a lump of mashed potatoes sitting in some kind of soup. In your head you may picture yourself picking up a spoon, dipping it into the soft, creamy mound, and putting it into your mouth without a care in the world. Possibly it will taste buttery, and maybe there will even be some onions or chives in there.

If this is what you’re thinking, then you have never actually experienced fufu.

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Fufu is a cassava-based dish. Basically, the root-based plant is boiled in water then pounded down with a mortar and pestle. What you have now is a thick dough-like mixture that needs to be ferociously stirred, which usually takes two people, one pounding the fufu with the long, wooden pestle and the other reaching in and moving it around in between the pounding. As an outsider, I always found this a bit hard to watch, as it always looked like the person moving the fufu around was moments away from losing their arm.

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Once the mixture is completely smooth you shape it into smaller balls, which are usually put into a soup and served with meat. Each time I had fufu, it was served with fried chicken in groundnut soup, a spicy broth made with a peanut base.

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As most people who travel to Ghana will have their fufu made for them at a restaurant or someone’s house, the real task is knowing how to eat it. It is important to realize that in Ghana, eating with the left hand is considered extremely disrespectful. In this country, and many other Africa countries, your left hand is used for cleaning yourself (i.e. when you use the toilet) and the right hand is used for eating and handing things to others. Moreover, while Western dining etiquette places an emphasis on silverware, fufu, like much of the cuisine in Ghana, is eaten with the hands (the right hand, to be specific).

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Before dining, two bowls filled with water will be placed in front of you, one for washing your hands before the meal, and one for washing your hands after. To eat this dish, break off a small piece of the fufu and make a small indentation in it. Use this indentation to scoop up some of the soup, then place it in your mouth, and, without chewing, swallow. Yes, I said without chewing. I found this concept very difficult to grasp for some reason, as instinct tells most of us to chew our food. However, my Ghanian companion would scold me, saying, “You don’t need to chew it, it’s already soft!”

The texture is a lot like gum, as there is a stretchiness too it, but also a bit more doughy. While a bit flavorless itself, dipping it into the soup gives it a spicy peanut flavor while adding some consistency to the meal. Once you remember the etiquette and get used to eating soup with your hands, it becomes quite simple to enjoy this local Ghanian favorite.

Camouflage Company Makes Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak a Reality

Created by Canadian camouflage design company Hyperstealth, Quantum Stealth is a is a material that renders its wearer completely invisible by bending light waves around it, which is in effect very similar to the invisibility cloak worn child wizard extraordinaire, Harry Potter.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put on your very own invisibility cloak and just roam around undetected? Sadly, that’s not going to be possible for most of us, but if you’re a US soldier, this fantasy could become a reality sooner than you think. Apparently, the US Military is currently backing development of special materials to make American soldiers completely invisible on the battlefield, and according to one camouflage design company, it might soon get its wish. Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. CEO, Guy Cramer, says their new “Quantum Stealth” material has finally made the sci-fi/fantasy technology a reality. Unfortunately at this time, we can only take his word for it, as its development is so secret that the company cannot even show footage of how it works, on its website, offering only mock-ups of its effects.

Still, Cramer remains unfazed by the wave of skepticism, saying that “the people that need to know that it works have seen it”. And no, he doesn’t mean the students of a real-life wizard school, but command groups from within the US and Canadian Military. “‘These groups now know that it works and does so without cameras, batteries, lights or mirrors…It is lightweight and quite inexpensive.” the Hyperstealth CEO said. ” Both the U.S. and Canadian military have confirmed that it also works against military IR scopes and Thermal Optics.” Instead of going into details about how Quantum Stealth manipulates light waves to conceal even the target’s shadow, Mr. Cramer talked about how he sees the technology being used. In his opinion, it would be invaluable for pilots stranded behind enemy lines in order to avoid capture, but also for special units carrying out raids in broad daylight. Also the next generation of aircrafts could be invisible not only to radars but also to the naked eye, while tanks and submarines could only be detected by the sound of their engines and guns.

In a recent interview with CNN, Guy Cramer said he only disclosed information about Hyperstealth’s breakthrough to attract the attention of the US Military. After it got enough exposure in the press, the Military asked to see Quantum Stealth in action, to verify if it really works. So there you have it folks, the next time you see an invisibility cloak in real life, it’s most likely it won’t be concealing a spectacled wizard, but a machine gun-wielding soldier…

German Artist Creates Art from Chaotic Splotches of Tea, Coffee and Juice

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Stains of coffee and fruit juice are dreaded by most people, but German artist Angela Mercedes Donna Otto actually uses them as the basis for her creative artworks. She randomly pours colored drinks on paper canvases and spends hours contemplating the splotches, looking for familiar shapes.

At the base of Angela Mercedes Donna Otto’s art is “apophenia”, a term used by psychologists to describe the pursuit of the human mind to construct meaning, order and forms even from chaotic structures (e.g. seeing faces and shapes in clouds). She starts the creative process by making random splotches of coffee, tea and various fruit juices on a paper canvas, to create all kinds of chaotic patterns. Then, she spends hours on end in her studio, contemplating the stains and using her imagination to identify meaningful patterns and shapes. Finally, the motifs she finds in the visually stimulant material are extracted from the patterns by drawing with colored ink. Though they are carefully worked out in detail her pictures provide a wide range of interpretation, different approaches and scope to “see more”.

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World’s strangest New Year traditions

While most of us take photographs for keepsakes, the people in Ecuador set fire to them on the eve of New Year.

This represents burning away the past – that could be regretful or unpleasant – and starting the new year on a clean slate.

But some believe this is just their excuse for Ecuadorian pyromaniacs to set things on fire. r with a new slate.

But some believe this is just their excuse for Ecuadorian pyromaniacs to set things on fire.

How are the rest of the world bidding farewell to 2012 and ushering in 2013?

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Scarecrow burning – Ecuador

To banish any ill fortune or bad things that happened in the past year, Ecuadorians set fire to scarecrows filled with paper at midnight on New Year’s Eve.They also burn photographs of things that represent the past year, which leads us to believe that New Year is just a thinly veiled excuse for Ecuadorian pyromaniacs to set things on fire.

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Round things – Philippines

In the Philippines New Year is about one thing, and one thing only; cold hard cash.

[Pictured here: A man seen wrapped with pythons, as part of a show celebrating the coming Year of the Snake in the Chinese calendar, as spectators look on in Malabon City, north of Manila on Dec 28, 2012.]

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Hoping to bring prosperity and wealth for the year ahead, Filipino people try to use as many round things as possible to represent coins and wealth. Round clothes, round food, you name it; if it’s round, they want in.

Broken plates – Denmark

If you’re ever in Denmark and wake up to find a pile of smashed crockery outside your door, you’ve either annoyed the local chapter of the Women’s Institute or it’s New Year’s Eve. Unused plates are saved up all year, until the 31st of December when they are hurled at the front doors of your friends and family in a strangely vandalistic display of affection.

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Eating 12 grapes – Spain

As the clock counts down to 12 and people around the world are preparing to watch fireworks and drunkenly kiss each other, Spaniards are staring at bunches of grapes with a steely gaze.This challenge involves stuffing your face with 12 grapes, one for every ring of the bell. Succeed and you’ve got good luck for the year ahead.

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Takanakuy Festival – Peru

This annual Peruvian festival held at the end of December is all about people beating the living daylights out of each other. Competitors face off in a ring for a round of bare-knuckle brawling, which is overseen by local policemen. Takanakuy literally means ‘when the blood is boiling’, but apparently all of the fights are friendly, and represent a fresh start for the year.

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108 rings – Japan

Think the countdown of 12 rings takes too long? Try 108 on for size. In Japan bells are rang 108 times in a Buddhist tradition that is believed to banish all human sins. It’s also good luck to be smiling or laughing going into the New Year, but who knows how you can be in a good mood after having to sit through that prolonged ringing.

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Coloured underwear – South America

In South American countries such as Mexico, Bolivia (above) and Brazil, your fortunes for the year ahead are all decided by your underpants.

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Those who want to find love wear red underwear for New Year.topImage (11)

If you’re just after a bit of peace for the New Year, some white pants should do the trick nicely.topImage (12)

Whilst gold diggers should opt for yellow, which brings wealth and luck.topImage (13)

Aogashima Island – Living inside a Volcano

Can you imagine yourself living in a giant volcanic crater? Well, for starters, you can forget about Starbucks. But it sure would be the ultimate destination to get away from it all. It’s not all that surprising then, that about 200 people actually inhabit the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, with only one school and a single post office.

Aogashima, a part of the Izu Archipelago, lies two hundred miles south of Tokyo, in the Philippine Sea. The island and its 205 inhabitants (as of 2009), are a part of Japan and governed by Tokyo. When I first saw pictures of this breathtaking location, it sort of reminded me of an inverted pudding on a plate. Or an oddly shaped donut. But Aogashima is really a volcano within a volcano. The island is quite well known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera. So what you have is one big, giant crater, which is the island itself, inside which is nestled a much smaller version of itself. This gives the whole island a rather mysterious appeal, almost like something out of a fantasy movie. It’s hard to believe there are such places still left in the world, untouched by noisy human activity.

The entire population of Aogashima lives on a small part of the island. This is where most of the amenities are located, such as a general store and a helipad. While it’s unrealistic to expect a great night life or gourmet food options in a place as remote as this, Aogashima isn’t totally devoid of activities to pursue. For starters, it is a great place to relax and unwind, basking in all the serenity. Scuba diving is a popular activity in the intensely blue waters. You could also consider hiking and camping by the volcano, or visiting the volcanic hot springs. In the very center of the island is a geothermal sauna. The main volcano has scalding hot steam vents around one side, which are used to power the public sauna – a perfect way to relax after a long day of hiking. You can even cook food at the steam vents, in the pots available outside the sauna to steam your goodies. Accessibility options to and from the island aren’t too great:, as it can only be reached by ferry and by helicopter. Once you’re on the island, you have access to a 24/7 live feed of the harbor, so that you can keep an eye on the weather before venturing out.

If you are planning on visiting Aogashima , you might want to know that it is actually an active volcano. The last massive eruption was over 200 years ago, in 1785. 140 people are said to have died back then, and since it has been a while, the volcano might be in store for another eruption sometime soon. If you’re not the kind to take risks, you might as well sit back and enjoy breathtaking pictures of this amazing beauty of an island. I’ll leave you to it.

Bacon-Scented Shaving Cream Makes Men’s Mornings Smell Like Heaven

As if bacon perfume wasn’t enough to help people carry the smell of the tasty treat with them wherever they went, a Seattle-based food company has just launched a ’high end’ limited-edition Bacon Shaving Cream.

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Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow, the two man behind J&D Foods, have just released their newest idea – a bacon-scented shaving cream that will allegedly make users ’smell and feel like a champion’. Yup, the smell of bacon usually has that effect on people, but what I’d like to know is how does one restrain from having a taste of the heavenly-smelling shaving cream. After all, as inventor Justin Esch himself admits, “there is nothing more powerful than the smell of bacon, nothing.”  Company co-founder Dave Lefkow also wrote in a press release: ”Bacon Shaving Cream is a high end, luxurious bacon-scented shaving cream for all skin types. Our advanced heat-activated aromatic technology lasts for hours and delivers maximum bacon scent when you need it most.” He recommends using it after a hot shower or before an important date with a potential soul-mate. It will probably make them want to eat you up.

In the old days, people used bacon grease to shave their beards, and since the breakfast food is so hugely popular these days, a bacon-flavored shaving cream just made sense. And at $14.95 it’s a steal if you can’t get enough of that crispy treat smell. But you’d better act fast, as J&D have created just 2,500 jars of the delicious-smelling lather, and with the holidays just around the corner, they’re bound to sell like bacon hot cakes.

Even though Justin and Dave claim theirs is the world’s first bacon-scented shaving cream, there’s a Wisconsin-based shop called Mama Bears Shop that claims they’ve been selling a similar product since 2010.