A week in Senegal: 11th-17th February

posted Feb 21, 2012, 3:50 AM by Dinner Lady   [ updated Feb 21, 2012, 4:17 AM ]
The Four and a half bellies are away (not in Senegal, alas). This is a "Two point bump bellies" guest post dispatched from our man in Africa.  For more Senegalese adventures check out simonfenton.blogspot.com 
Dinner Lady and the Four and a half bellies will return next week.

When you think of the world's great cuisines, aside from perhaps the tagines and couscous of the north, Africa doesn't get much of a look in.  It's fair to say that Africa's image is generally more focussed on hunger and poverty than Michelin stars. However, whilst I'd struggle to rank it higher than Italian, Thai, Indian or Chinese, West African food is delicious, nutritious, healthy and rarely leaves me hankering after a pizza.  

In a land with unreliable or non-existant electricity, we buy ingredients from the local market on the day and prepare all of our food in a single pot on a fire, using the light from a torch or mobile phone for illumination.  Luckily for me, unlike in Asia, people don't tend to eat strange body parts. The oddest thing I've seen is someone eating a raw potato in the same manner you would eat an apple. 
At meal times, when everyone arrives, we pull our chairs up around a central platter. Those without a chair squat. Using our right hands or a spoon, we eat quickly. It's invariably rice with a sauce.  Yassa (onion and lemon), maffe (peanut) or a slimy green substance (bissap) that has the texture of pond slime, but tastes far better - fresh and sour with that "opal fruit factor" that makes you suck in your cheeks.  

A portion of meat or fish, that would typically do for one in Europe, will be divided amongst us. My girlfriend, Khady, removes the bones or tears up the meat with her hands and flicks it around, usually sending the choicest morsels in my direction.  Visitors often join us, but no extra food is cooked. We simply divide what's available between those present.  The dog and cat patiently wait for the leftovers. What they don't eat goes to the chickens, where the circle continues.  


Budget for the week:  10,000 CFA (£12.60)

Actual spend:         12,000 CFA (£15.20) - we            
cooked for several of Khady's family members over the weekend.