Nyaam, To Eat and the Food

Trip Start Jan 14, 2014
Trip End Mar 16, 2014

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Sunday, February 2, 2014

   Nyaam, in Wolof, means "to eat." This is one word that survived the middle passage (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Jamaican_Patois_words_of_African_origin). Lunch and dinner are big meals here. Fish, beef and mutton are cheap. Chicken is relatively expensive. Shrimp, scallops, and conch are taken in season. Now it is conch and shrimp season. We have only had each of these shellfish once in our first month, both in a tomato, chilli-gumbo type of arrangement. They were excellent.
   The market basics for the dry season are garlic, tomato, eggplant, onion, potato, carrot, citrus of all kinds, red habanero, banana, plantain, cabbage, and pristine red and green leaf lettuces. Cucumber, papaya and coconut can be tracked down most days. The yard is full of cassava. The main grains are white rice and couscous, possibly millet. Fresh bread is baked daily into baguettes, and sold at every corner store for 100 CFA ($0.21) each. A few mini-markets catering to Europeans have everything you would expect, mostly made in Egypt.
   Seemingly, the most common sauce here in Senegal features a lemon, garlic and onion broth/stew with wedges of cabbage, eggplant and carrot. This works great with fish or chicken. The habaneros are usually included, but are left whole. This way they do not infuse into the whole dish as you might expect. 
   Most people would not eat between meals unless they miss a meal or are eating an orange. Oranges of all sorts are everywhere all the time. Tangerines and mandarins are favored for their sweetness, as is white sugar for strong coffee.
   Some foods here I would consider under utilized, such as coconut, for cooking and nutrition. Others are just starting to be used, like conch, and have had little culinary value historically. Koni is a palm fruit much like a coconut, but the water and meat is replaced with three chambers of jello-like, sweet goo. The koni palms are huge and must be climbed to be harvested. Most people don't bother. A rack of koni can weigh 100 lbs. and feed a working crew for days.
   With clean well water, some palm oil and some firewood you are all set for for some amazing culinary feats. We haven't been cooking much as we explore what is possible, but we did manage a mean eggplant red sauce with spaghetti. Samson's favorite is the chicken and chips, served on a bed of dressed green leaf. Last night we had an omelette for dinner, scrambled eggs over fried potatoes surrounded with fresh slices tomato and cucumber. A little truffle salt from the Telluride Mushroom Festival vendors and voila! Bon appetit!
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Sam Rotondi on

very interesting and informative as well as making me very hungry. I love conch.

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