Adjusting to cooking here has been one of the big challenges for me. The first time I went to the store here I came home and cried as I was missing one ingredient from each meal that I had planned to make. I knew coming here that I would have to make everything from scratch, I was just not prepared for the limitations I would have on the resources available here and how difficult it is to find some ingredients. However cooking is also one of the areas where I have seen great progress over that past 9 months. Our family is becoming very comfortable with eating and cooking here. So what are some of the differences in cooking?
- I probably spend 3 to 4 hours a day in the kitchen
- There is no short cut or easy meal.
- Pretty much anything that you buy frozen, in a can or in a box is just not available here.
- Ingredients that are not used in the common meals here are either not available or difficult to find.
- All dry ingredients must be sorted for bugs and other unwanted additions
- Fresh ingredients must soak for 20 minutes
- There is significantly less variety
- If you don’t eat it or freeze it, it will spoil in no time at all.
- Everything takes longer! Take Pancakes…First we have to sift the flour, wash the eggs and make the milk. Then we mix all the ingredients together. Finally, as we cook the pancakes we also have to make the syrup to put on top. Small additions just add up fast!
So What Do we Usually Eat
Breakfast: For breakfast I either bake something or we make French toast or pancakes. Occasionally we do oatmeal, which is our easiest meal but unfortunately is pretty expensive here.
Lunch: This is our main meal of the day. At least once a week we eat a Senegalese meal. The other days we eat a variety of things. Some of our favorites are: Spaghetti, Chili, Tacos, Stir Fry , Chef Salads, Soups, Stroganoff, and meatloaf. Each piece of the meal has to be made by hand. So for tacos I have to cook the meat and make the refried beans, the rice, the salsa, and the tortillas.
Dinner: We usually reheat leftovers on the stove or we make a sandwich with popcorn.
Snacks: Our favorite snack is homemade Popsicles, prefect on a hot day.
Cooking For 50 in only Two Pots
Each week I have been learning how to cook a new Senegalese Dish. Our host wife, Cecil has been showing me the art of Senegalese cooking and training me to cook as they cook. She will usually cook the entire meal in one pot over the course of the morning. It is a long ordeal, but it is an amazing part of their culture. A typical meal is served in one bowl. The bottom layer is rice with some kind of sauce. On top of that is the veggies and in the center is either fish or meat.
My work paid off as this weekend when, for the first time, I was allowed to help with the preparation of a meal for the end of the year school party. In two large pots we cooked 50 pounds of potatoes, 50 pounds of onion sauce, some pork and two chickens. It was amazing to watch and participate in the work taking place.