For the last two months my stomach has demanded of me that I go in search of sushi, chicken wings, and pizza. All of which have been possible, except sushi which is rare, but in Dakar it is not impossible to find. The Caesar’s restaurant chain specializes in wings, and pizza is common because of the great influence of Italy, but the one craving I know I won’t be able to satisfy for the next six months is barbecue pork buns.
It has been an interesting experience with food here in Senegal. More often than not I find myself enjoying a plate of ceebu jen(onions, rice and fish) with an assortment of vegetables decorating the platter – from eggplant and carrot to sweet potato and hot peppers with the occasional bissap(hibiscus flowers) and tamarinds. Other meals range fromceebu nebbe(beans and rice) to ndambe(beans with boiled sheep), which are two of my personal favorites.
Going to visit my coworkers I have enjoyed ceebuginaar ak kane(spicy rice and chicken), yassa jen (onion sauce on white rice with fish) and saladeuginaar(chicken with seasoned fries and lettuce). Breakfast consists of cafÌ© Touba and mburu(baguette) which I have taken to the habit of eating with sauce kane(hot sauce). For the religious holiday Tabaski ÛÒ on October 6th ÛÒ we butchered a sheep and for the next two weeks ate it at each dinner but on Tabaski it was grilled then served with lots of fries. I cannot stress the deliciousness of sheep meat with fries! When my host mother returned from Mecca, we held a celebration where beef was part of each meal with a combination of thiÌ©re (couscous), fries, or rice.
Spices are a big thing in food here. Most meals have at least a taste of kane (hot peppers), Maggi (bouillon cubes), green onions, garlic, and pepper. The dishes are usually served with some form of lemon and lime, so I find my fondness for them growing daily. For celebrations, you use multiple boxes full of ingredients and end up needing the biggest pots in the world to feed everyone. However with swiftness, ten women can chop 143 onions, carrots and potatoes, as well as peel loads of garlic, then prepare lakh(kind of like grits) for all the guests within the course of three hours. That may seem like a long time, but cooking for at least 100 people is difficult. Gallons of oil, kilos of rice and onions later, you have everyone fed and happy. In the end it is worth all the hard work.
So although I have since then craved peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce and black licorice, I am thankful to know I have a loving home to return to in the United States, but while here in Senegal I can learn the subtleties of their cooking. To decide if I need four or five Maggi cubes and if three packages of pepper are sufficient to make the rice as spicy as my family likes it. From preparing the chicken during Magal to making beef soup yesterday, my family wipes the plate clean and with enthusiasm tell me, Neex na!”(It is delicious!) I am proud to be known as a good cook and have my mother ask me often when I will be preparing the next meal. It has involved learning new ways to cut onions