So as you know...village life was pretty slow, days revolved around meals, and if you are a woman in Senegal you spend most of your daytime hours preparing meals for your extended family. So I decided to put my gender to use and learn how to cook Senegalese style, with the intention of making a Senegalese cookbook when I return. The lack of gas stoves in the village means you have to start your wood fire early on if you expect to feed your family in a timely manner. It also means I will be coming home with a lovely case of black lung.
While most meals in Dakar consist of ceeb-u-jen for lunch and some variation of salad or fish or rice for dinner, here in the village we eat meat and potatoes. I still haven’t fully understood why almost every night for dinner we eat a goat and potatoes, when this village is considered a “bread basket” and the fields that stretch miles around us produce beautifully succulent tomatoes, corn, lettuce, squash and other yummies. But at least I’ve become an expert in cooking meat and potatoes while I’ve been here (I suppose my step-dad will be quite excited about that). We can have meat with French fries, we can have meat with sweet potatoes in an onion sauce, we can have macaroni and meat, we can have little tiny spaghettis and, guess what…meat!
So now that you know the principle ingredients here are the other indispensable items that MUST be used in every meal in Senegal. Whether you are making an omelette or a plate of ceeb-u-jen to feed twenty people you will always need this:
Lots of onions.
Lots of garlic.
A handful of whole black peppercorns.
Have on hand anywhere from 2-8 bouillon cubes.
A handful of small dried red peppers (like the crushed red pepper you put on pizza).
Making any meal starts with these ingredients. You then put them all into a giant mortar and pound them with a pestle. When they are sufficiently pulverized you add them to whatever you are cooking. If cooking meat mix in spicy yellow mustard and make a marinade. If making Nyaari Chin (“deux marmites” or “two pots”) put all ingredients into hot oil, simmer and then add water and lots and lots of bouillon cubes until you make a sauce.
Then thoroughly over-cook any vegetables you might have until they are utterly unrecognizable, add your carbohydrate of choice, and plop some deliciously gooey and piping hot dead animal on top.
And there you have it! Wash your hands and dig in, Senegalese style, using a piece of bread as your spoon or just rip that goat apart with your hands, and don’t forget to thoroughly gnaw on all the bones at the end so you don’t miss any of the good chewy bits.
I hope you’re all excited for me to cook for you when I get back ☺