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Box 2 Sociocultural dynamics of food use and dietary patterns in the Congo Basin area

From: Addressing constraints in promoting wild edible plants’ utilization in household nutrition: case of the Congo Basin forest area

In the Congo basin area, whole meals are prepared and consumed in three forms. Firstly are steamed dishes from a variety of food items. Most steamed dishes are often traditional meals or meals cooked during food scarcity and could be a whole meal, a sauce or a staple. Secondly is a porridge which is a mixture of staples with sometimes vegetables and oils and many ingredients, all cooked in one pot. These are in most cases foods during hard times although some cultures have this as main meals. Thirdly are a complement (staple) and a sauce which is the most common form. The staple can be a cereal, root, tuber or plantain/banana boiled or a cooked paste established from the grinding or pounding these main staples. These are accompanied by a sauce which is often a soup (meaning a combination of thickeners (paste from nuts, grains, vegetables, seeds, etc.) and spices), a stew, a vegetable or a pudding. Sauces are intended to help increase the palatability of staples, and therefore, from the traditional perspective, different sauces have been identified to go with different staples
Here, it is important to understand that in most cases vegetables are served as a sauce to accompany the staple not on its own or as a side dish. Since sauces are often more expensive than staples, eating vegetables without a staple or as a side dish is considered like wasting resources, a luxury or inappropriate feeding although with modernization this is becoming more and more acceptable. In case of scarcity, a number of different vegetables are combined and cooked in one pot and/or some thickeners could be added to it to increase the quantity depending on the staple food and the household size
Snacks and appetizers also exist although in a typical village context they also serve as hungry time food. These include grilled and roasted food items like nuts, roots and tubers, plantains, wild fruits, leaves, dried nuts and grains