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from: Central Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Fish & Greens

The most traditional Central African cooking method: a boiling pot over a fire. Select a fish that won't fall apart when cooked in a stew. Any kind of greens can be substituted for the spinach in this recipe.

women fishing in congo

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James George Frazer

Whatever the fisherman’s real name may be, he is called mwele

James George Frazer was a professor of social anthropology at Liverpool who spent a good part of his life writing and adding to his major work, The Golden Bough (Abridged edition; New York: The Macmillan Co., 1922; first published 1890; various editions since then). This passage describes a traditional belief among the Bangala (Ngala) people of the Congo.

Among the Bangala of the Upper Congo, while a man is fishing and when he returns with his catch, his proper name is in abeyance and nobody may mention it. Whatever the fisherman’s real name may be, he is called mwele without distinction. The reason is that the river is full of spirits, who, if they heard the fisherman’s real name, might so work against him that he would catch little or nothing. Even when he has caught his fish and landed with them, the buyer must still not address him by his proper name, but must only call him mwele; for even then, if the spirits were to hear his proper name, they would either bear it in mind and serve him out another day, or they might so mar the fish he had caught that he would get very little for them. Hence the fisherman can extract heavy damages from anybody who mentions his name, or can compel the thoughtless speaker to relieve him of the fish at a good price so as to restore his luck.
(Chapter XXII -- Tabooed Words)


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