A mortar and pestle in my way of thinking is probably one of the most important kitchen appliance in a Togolese kitchen. It is used to grind spices and herbs, mash veggies like onions or tomatoes. The flavors of grinding fresh spices and herbs are more intense and every kitchen should have a some type of mortar and pestle be it small or large.
I do have a mortar and pestle in my kitchen that was brought back from Togo. The mortar is clay with grooves in it which helps to grind and blend spices and herbs. The pestle is made of teak, but easily cracks here in Upper Michigan because of the dryness in the air. I grind spices like anise, ginger and garlic and grind or mash vegetables like tomatoes, onions and garlic. I love the aroma of the spices and vegetables as they are being ground or mashed in the mortar.
A side benefit of using a mortar and pestle is that you are doing toning of your upper arms. At least I feel that I have had a slight work out when I use the mortar and pestle. When my husband uses it, it looks effortless.
There also is a larger pestle and mortar that is used to pound fufu but that will be discussed in further posts.