Plantains in Space

I ate a space plantain the other day.  It had the NASA logo on it:

(Ignore our messy kitchen in the background!)

This is roughly where the plantain was when I encountered it:

(Yes, this is corn.  The shot turned out better than did my photo of the roasting plantains.)

Starchy foods like plantains, corn and yams make up a popular category of Ghanaian street food.  They’re roasted over makeshift braziers like the one above, then wrapped in newspaper and sold for perhaps 50 pesewa, or US$0.35.  The newspaper is usually not, as one might expect, the Chronicle or the Graphic, but rather tends to be a European or North American paper published some months ago.  (My space plantain came wrapped in a Canadian paper dated from last March.)

The curious afterlife of Western newspapers isn’t just limited to wrapping up street food, as I discovered when I stopped at the bathroom at the Kintampo bus station and was handed some crumpled Dutch news from last September in lieu of toilet paper.  Google hasn’t turned up any useful results about the frequency of old papers (printing overages?  copies with serious errors in them?  victims of the decline of physical publication?) being sold to traders in low income countries, and I am left to wonder who figured out that there was a market for cheap newsprint in Africa.  I spotted some boys pulling a cart stacked with old newspapers at the downtown market the other morning, so I plan to return at the same time next week in hope of encountering them again and asking about their source.

2 thoughts on “Plantains in Space

  1. I’ve been wondering about this one too in the past year – I thought maybe a lot of the paper was excess local paper recycled, until in Senegal I ate a baguette wrapped in an article in German (I don’t imagine there is a large German language newspaper readership in Senegal). No space logos yet though….


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