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.
I loved the picture at the end with you and the kids, so precious. I am so impressed with how well you are learning to cook and take care of everyone. I wish I’d learned more about how to cook Okinawan food when I first got here, but I was still going through cultural adjustments and so busy with teaching that I didn’t have the energy. My challenges with cooking are not quite as labor-some as yours; my problem is that I don’t know what half the meats or vegetables are or how to cook them. 🙂 I’m learning slowly. I’m so proud of you, you are amazing! I hope you know that, cause I can’t imagine most people going through what your dealing with with half the grace and faith you’ve exhibited. I love you. (Oh, and nice necklace!)
Lynette Borcherds says
Having met some awesome people from ntm, I often pop onto the website to check the blogs and see who is up to what 🙂 Your “Cooking in Africa” was truly an inspiring read for me, for quite a few reasons!! Firstly I am a proud born & bred South African and have travelled through Africa quite a bit, so I do know and understand the ‘African way of life’ and as we speak, I am cooking a HUMANGEOUS (read very very large) pot of soup, for a soup kitchen we run from our church 🙂 however of course I am doing all of this the way you would back home, in the comfort of my home with a proper stove and don’t ‘hate’ me but with a large number of supermarket bought ingredients 🙂
That said, just thought I would pop up on your screen to firstly wish you … HAPPY 4TH JULY!! Also many thanks for caring so much about African people (((((((((((((((BIG HUGS)))))))))))))) you are on and living in one of the most continents, so I warn you, be very careful, Africa will creep into your heart and you will always long for her 🙂 Seriously though THANK YOU!!
So for now, GOD BLESS you and your precious family, may your struggles be less and the happy times more :O) hope your little boy is getting stronger every day and he heals 100%!!
Bob & Jessie says
Dear Andi: You are amazing!! I will build a fire pit so you will be able to prepare a dinner for us when you come home. Jessie has been walking for a little over one month, but the foot still swells a little and is slightly painful. I look like I have been scalped. The dermatologist took a patch 3 inches long and 1-3/4 inches wide off of the top of my head. It looks bad and Jessie bandages it twice a day. We are letting it heal naturally and it will take 2 to 2-1/2 months to heal. Keep up the good work!!! Don’t feed Joel too much with that huge cooking pan. We are praying for you.
With our love, GP & GM
Lauri Amandus says
Okay… this is the best blog entry yet. Loved it. Sure makes me think of you through each day and pray for you guys. Andi… you have a gift at writing . How you find time to do it is beyond me.
Andrea Pitcher says
I believe that medical care & cooking are two of the greatest “hardships” of missionary life. You’re doing great on both counts this summer! I used to get frustrated that churches were paying so much money for me to live in Europe as a missionary…and I was spending HOURS of it finding food and preparing food. It felt like God was “wasting” his investment…or “wasting” our time & gifts. This is all part of it. Being a missionary is only part Spiritual work – there is also a huge cultural adjustment & work. This is it. You’re doing the hard, daily, drudgery stuff that is part of being a fantastic missionary. So proud you’re even cooking for groups – the other cooking requirement for a missionary is being able to cook from scratch for large groups.
Funny story: we had a huge group of americans on a work team and I had spent a long part of my day making home made dough and dinner rolls to go with our big pot of soup at lunch. I was very proud of my hard work and felt it would be a “homey” touch for the americans. One of the women saw me cutting them out of the pan and told me that I didn’t need a knife because they’re “pre-cut before they’re frozen”. She had no idea you could make dinner rolls from scratch or how long I’d been working at making dough and letting it rise & double so I could cook it for their lunch…she assumed I’d bought some frozen rolls and was just reheating them for the group! It takes another missionary to get that one!
You’re doing a great job. Your family is eating daily – good food that was lovingly prepared. Your local friends are proud that you’re learning and participating. Your kids will never know the difference. Your Savior knows each minute you spend “wasting” your skills for His work. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing and you’re good at it!
Barb. Griffin says
I admire you for all you’re learning and doing. Cooking for 3-4 hours in the kitchen WOW that’s at least 1/2 your day. What can we send to help you out?
Carolyn Powell says
Very informative! How spoiled I am. Praise God for all that you are learning and accomplishing in this new culture. And for the relationships you are forming! I didn’t realize there was a school. That must be rare. Is this a Christian school? Will Ethan be going to this school? How is the mosquito problem? May God prove Himself again with a speedy rescue. Any mosquito repellant? I could send you some, but would it take weeks for you to get it?