7 Days of Gratitude: Day #4

DAY #4:

FOOD!!! I have loved Senegalese food from the first time I ate it. Yes, it is
mostly rice and fish, and yes, it is sometimes so spicy you will sweat a lot
for the next hour, but that is exactly why I loved it. The almost unimaginable
amount of oil they used, the repetitiveness of the menu and the absence of
dessert were factors I believe have improved this experience. In Senegal, eating
out is rarely considered by most people, and the idea of basing a whole meal on
something produced in a factory is just inconceivable. Food must be fresh,
cooked by real people, spiced up by experience. Each dish is unique depending
on who cooks it. I have never eaten two same ceebujen (rice and fish) from two
different people. I have never not had ceebujen for more than a week while
there. Thanks to the relative wealth of my host family, there were always
vegetables and sometimes fruits in the house, so my diet there was one of the
best I have had in my whole life.

Cooking was
a special part of my experience too. It was the first activity I started doing
frequently with my sisters and mom. It was a way of interacting with them while
we still didn’t have that much intimacy. It was also a way of getting distracted,
a time-consuming activity that warmly pleased my so free-timed schedule. I learned
so much about vegetables, spices and cooking techniques. It really didn’t take
long for me to introduce these learnings into my cooking style, and I am so
grateful for them.

The last
and probably most important thing about food I am grateful for is the community
bowl. Waiting for everybody to arrive before we start eating, sharing the same
food, sitting on the floor and eating with my own hands. All these things added
a pinch of humility I had never related to food before. Meals were such a
special part of my time in Senegal that food is usually the first thing I talk
about when the cliché “how was Senegal?” comes up.

A special thanks to Mame Diouma for being one of the best cooks I have ever met.