Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, January 19

Food Diary

Aside from everything mentioned in the last entry, one last important point I’d like to make before we get to the details of this food diary is that my family is not like “normal” Senegalese families. I can’t say this enough; my experience is completely different from just about every other volunteer in this country. I am the exception, not the rule. My family is pretty wealthy and we therefore have the ability to buy more variety. They are health conscious (as my Mom is actually on a diet- and losing weight) and so we are always talking about ways to prepare and eat better food. By contrast, I’ve had conversations with volunteers who’ve never even seen chocolate in their villages, who live in desert places where fresh veggies don’t grow in- nor get delivered to- their town, and who are always eating lunch’s leftovers for dinner (and sometimes breakfast the next day, too). Remember: exception, not rule.

And now, a recap of all the things I ate for a week:

Monday Lunch: Beef Maffee. This is a tomato paste based sauce with peanut butter added for flavor. Veggies cooked whole and then broken into pieces during the meal include potato, sweet potato, cabbage, manioc, carrot, onion and hot pepper. All of this poured over white rice. A soy sauce substitute is sprinkled on top and a wedge of lemon is available to cut the spice.

Monday Dinner: Beef with Veggies. The meat is braised in oil and garlic before the water and veggies are added to the pot and thoroughly cooked (i.e. water has evaporated). Veggies are green bean, onion, and potato quarters. Pieces of bread accompany the dish.

Tuesday Lunch: Beef Curry. Beef is cooked in oil. Small pieces of carrot, onion, tomato, cabbage, and white radish are cooked in the traditional yellow Indian curry sauce… while whole pieces of manioc, potato and hot pepper are also added and then poured over white rice.

Tuesday Dinner: Beef Spaghetti. Yes, we have pasta here… which, after cooked, is covered in copious amounts of oil, onions and a few pieces of beef. Bread is served on the side. Side note: they break the pasta strands into thirds, even though the entire long piece will fit in the pot for boiling, just to make it bite sized.

Wednesday Lunch: Fish and Rice. The dish of Senegal! Pieces of fish are fried in oil, sauce is made from bouillon cube in which cabbage, potato, carrot, bitter tomato, and sweet potato are cooked. After, the cooked veggies are removed and a portion of the sauce is mixed with the cooked rice. The whole thing is pour back over the now red rice and eaten.

Wednesday Dinner: Salad. The outer circle of the bowl is lined with unbroken pieces of lettuce that have been tossed in vinaigrette. The inner circle is filled with boiled potatoes, carrots, onions, and green beans. Fresh cucumber, green pepper, and tomato slices are dispersed around the entire bowl, along with spam, hardboiled egg, and sausage slices. The entire dish is then drizzled with ketchup, herbed mayonnaise, and hot sauce. And of course there is bread.

Thursday Lunch: Beef Yassa. Picture long slices of white onion sautéed in oil and vinegar. Add beef pieces and pour over white rice. Variations sometimes include additional vegetables or green olives, but generally not. It’s a pretty bland and nutrition less meal.

Thursday Dinner: Mouhamza. The tiniest dot pasta balls cooked then mixed with water, powdered milk, and sugar. No bread comes with this one (did you really want it?). My host mom wishes all to know that normally this meal is reserved for Sunday dinner (light meal rotation)… but as she was very busy during this afternoon she had little time to prepare a “proper” meal.

Friday Lunch: Beef Domada. Tomato based sauce mixed with flour, to make it thick and goopy, and bay leaves. Whole cooked potato, carrot, cabbage head, manioc, and sweet potato are divided amongst the participants during the meal. Bite sized beef and white rice round out the dish.

Friday Dinner: Beef and Potatoes with Salad. This dish comes with “Irish style” stewed meat and potatoes in an onion sauce. A salad lines the outer circle and consists of vinaigrette soaked lettuce, tomato, green pepper and mustard and hot sauce sprinkled on top. Bread, as always, is served on the side.

Saturday Lunch: Fish and Fish Balls with Rice. This is a fancier version of the same meal eaten earlier in the week. One large fish is substituted for the pieces used in the last version. Same veggies are cooked in sauce, but egg plant and red beans have been added. Smaller pieces of green beans, white radish, and onions have also been incorporated into the sauce. Another type of fish is mashed, balled, fried and added to the veggies and sauce. The whole sauce is mixed with the rice. A hot pepper has been added for good measure.

Let’s pause for a disclaimer: I have informed the town of Mboro (and quite a few people outside it) that I am allergic to fish. I therefore, have a system worked out with my family where when fish is eaten I will go out, eat leftovers, or prepare my own meal. So on Wednesday I made myself hard boiled eggs and ate a plate of spaghetti. And Saturday I made an egg salad sandwich and a cup of ramen noodles. It’s nutritious (sort of) and a little taste of home.

Saturday Dinner: Green Peas. This is one of my favorite meals. Admittedly it’s because of its protein and fiber content, but also because green peas seem to taste different here. Purchased dried, the peas spend an afternoon being rehydrated in salt water. They’re then boiled until soft. Beef pieces and an onion sauce are created together then added to the peas. Bread is served on the side, of course.

Sunday Lunch: Meat and Rice. As it was my host mom’s birthday we had her favorite meal for lunch. Rice was cooked with curry, hot spices, and bay leaves. Cucumber, carrot, tomato, green pepper, white radish, green beans and onion were sliced into long thin slices and tossed with green peas and vinaigrette. Beef and sausage was pan cooked, while summer sausage and hard boiled eggs were cut into slices. Green olives, pickled Vidalia onions and pickles were littered about the top.

Sunday Dinner: Chakrey. Picture a runny (not so goopy) sweat vanilla yogurt. Add pieces of your favorite tropical fruits (papaya, cantaloupe melon, pineapple) and a few others such as banana and apple. Throw in some dried stuff too; raisons and cherries. Added to it is millet flour made into millimeter sized balls thanks to water and a few drops of orange and vanilla extracts (it was also steamed at some point). This is the only meal that is served in individual serving sized bowls. Seconds are optional, and on this occasion I even had thirds!

Another note about dessert: Sunday being mom’s birthday, we had a phenomenal buffet of dessert. First we had the same yogurt described above minus the millet, plus extra fruit. But most importantly, my host father drove to the gourmet bakery (an hour away) to buy 6 (yes, I said 6) different flavored cakes for my mom. This is the 2nd year running I’ve seen this and it convinces me that for all dad’s joking he really does love mom! Happy 39th birthday to Ndiaye Anna Ba. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear, what variety! And beef all the time (though I preferred the daily fish and rice)! I started to miss Senegalese food right away, though there is a tiny chance that I might pop in there in February...we'll see. Stay healthy!