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What drives our food culture? For many Americans, it's convenience and speed of delivery. But how is that different from the rest of the world?

Grasscutter soup
Clockwise from top left: red red, a bean stew, is dished up for lunch; fresh coconuts are opened for visitors in Brahoho Village; Heifer staff dine on grasscutter soup; and a closer look at the grasscutter soup, a popular meal all over Ghana.

Grasscutter: The Other, Other White Meat

We had been on the road for nearly six hours. I was fighting a pretty bad case of jet lag, trying hard not to nod off so I could take in the Ghanaian countryside. We stopped for fresh coconuts about two hours in, but I was getting hungry, and I knew exactly what I wanted for lunch.

The day before this journey to visit poultry projects in Techiman, about an eight-hour drive from Accra, Dr. Ebenezer Ghamli, a Heifer programs officer and veterinarian, took us to visit grasscutter farmers.

As it turned out, Ghamli wasn't just a helpful guide but also a great salesman. He touted the grasscutter meat's sweetness, and mentioned its health benefits, too. It's a white meat and is higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. Though I don't typically think of myself as an adventurous eater, he convinced me to try it for myself. Trying new cuisines is actually one of the most fun parts of traveling for Heifer. I've tasted some pretty weird stuff—goat brains to name just one dish—but it has usually been at the insistence of my hosts.

This time no one was pushing me to try grasscutter.

So when we pulled into the restaurant in Kumasi, I asked Roland Kanlisi, the interim country director for Heifer Ghana and my guide for this part of the trip, if getting grasscutter might be possible. It was. I let him order for me. I figured he knew what was best.

While I was waiting for my meal, I tasted a few other Ghanaian favorites. Jane Hahn, the photographer working with me, let me sample some of her red red, a bean stew made with red pepper and red palm oil, and kele wele (pronounced "killy willy"), which are fried plantains on the not-too-sweet side.

Both were delicious. I was certain that if the other food was this good, my meal wouldn't disappoint.

My dish appeared: a tomato soup with two large pieces of bone-in meat at its center and a side of white rice. I dug in.

As I took my first bite, Kanlisi waited for my reaction. "Any meat to compare it to?" he asked. I thought for a second. Took a second bite. "Not really," I answered. It truly has a flavor of its own. Gritty. Earthy. No "it tastes like chicken" from me. Also, if someone says it tastes like chicken? They're lying.

It wasn't bad, though. Closest in flavor, at least to me, of goat, which isn't exactly my favorite. So, if I ever make it back to West Africa, I doubt I'll ask for grasscutter soup again. But I had to try.

-Annie Bergman

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