So I’ve recently gotten into this cooking thing. I want to study gastronomy in school and I figured since I’m in Senegal, why not learn some things about Senegalese cooking? I talked to Gaya, one of the fellows, and she actually invited me over to cook with her family. I was so excited. It was awesome. And since Gaya is pretty much fluent in French, if I had a question, I could actually ask it.
What’s interesting about Senegalese cooking is that it takes forever. We started at 11 and ate at around 2. So that’s three hours of cooking. And the reason for that is there’s only one flame to cook on. You have to do things in succession, not just all at once. And on top of that, you buy the ingredients right when you need them, which I find so interesting. For example, we didn’t have charcoal, so we had to pause our cooking to go out to one of the stores to buy charcoal. But since there are so many stores, it only took like 5 minutes. In the US, we stock up on ingredients and buy more when we run out.
I was also thinking about the ingredients. If you cook Senegalese food without Senegalese ingredients, do you lose the Senegalese-ness of the food? In my opinion, one of the big things about Senegalese cuisine is that the ingredients are all local. The onions are from some street vendor who grows them. The salt is from somewhere in Africa, maybe Lac Rose. The fish are all super small, but are Senegalese nonetheless. All the ingredients could be bought from your neighbor. That’s the essence of Senegalese food. So if I were to make yasa-jen in the US, with American onions and American fish, and American everything, is it still Senegalese food? Or do you lose some of its authenticity?