The other day I very much enjoyed watching two marvelous animated films on Criterion Channel: Kirikou and the Sorceress and Kirikou and the Men and Women. Both films are magical, artistic, deep creations, and I found them engaging and captivating. They involve a tiny boy, Kirikou, and his courageous fight against a sorceress and her fetishes on behalf of his people–even as said people are not always as gracious about his efforts as they should be. Highly recommended!

I mention this because, at some point in the second film, one of the village women comes to stay at Kirikou’s house. Kirikou’s mother invites her in, saying:

This caught my attention. Fonio? What is it? I had never heard of it, so my eyes were glued to the screen to see what it would look like. And here it was:

This looked exactly like something I would very much enjoy eating, so I quickly looked it up. Fonio turns out to be a West African grain, gluten-free and rich in protein and nutrients. It cooks very quickly and can be used similarly to quinoa, couscous, or rice. A restaurateur in Harlem wants to uplift Fonio and make it an exciting new grain option for Western palates, noting that, by contrast to quinoa (where the Western demand removed it from Andean tables), Fonio had been rejected as a food staple for quite a while in West Africa on behalf of Western options.

This is quite sad, because fonio is not only healthy, but delicious! I ordered a bag on Amazon; it’s quite economical, as in cooking it expands considerably. The fonio-to-water cooking ratio is 1:2, and you can add a teaspoon of oil and a little bit of salt (though it’s not really necessary, in our experience.) It comes out fluffy, kind of like couscous or quinoa, and has a very flavorful, nutty taste. I can see serving it with a variety of vegetable stews and learning more about West African cuisine. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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