For all my female readers and those males whose female companions force them to watch chick flicks…Lately I am feeling a lot like Julie from the movie Julie and Julia but instead of cooking my way through Julia Child’s cookbook, I find myself selecting dishes from a little recipe bible called Where There is No Restaurant, the condensed Sierra Leonean Edition. Meghan Welsh and I have been cooking up a storm in Moyamba and yes, I can say we are pretty much culinary geniuses (well maybe not geniuses, just wicked good at following instructions). For those who know me well, know that my kitchen adventures haven’t always been the most pleasant or gratifying. But for a girl who though I could never cultivate any real “foodie” like traits, I guess I just needed to move to West Africa. Peace Corps can be one strange personality change agent. So here are a few highlights from the hot plate or kerosene stove of two PCVs.
Check conquer or massacre pumpkin off the list of ‘To Do’ which takes more manpower then we thought. Sierra Leoneans wanted to know what sort of sauce and rice combo we were going to create with our squashy friend; little did they know squash potato stew and an Asian stir-fry were going to come out of it. (By the way the orangeness of our brilliant stew reminded us mildly of cheese, we were sad from about two minutes with a dairy dream then we got over it).
Also have a small obsession with garlic; it’s fresh, cheap and delightful in all things. Our obsession has lead to pasta sauces that Meg and I agreed. We would definitely be worth paying for in America. Oh, add to our obsession list, eggplants. Fried, beer battered, fresh, chopped in pasta sauce, stir fry, or with rice. Purple dreaming, not to mention, it’s just pretty. (Yes, Mom I have a new respect for the ‘colorful’ plate). We also had a revolution that fries and tortillas in American grocery stores are literally overrated. So much tastier if created and made yourself. Maybe that’s just our excitement of actually eating these things and clouding our judgment.
Welsh and I have had to get creative about our protein intake. First, bush meant just doesn’t tickle my fancy….monkey and other random animal parts, not my thing just yet. Second, chicken is too much work. Even though I am an experience chicken killer now after the 4th of July, taking a chicken’s life every few days is too much and quite morbid. Third and lastly, I am not ready to brooch the fish subject yet, after eating bony fish three times a day with the host family, I just can’t stomach it yet and even some days have a hard time dealing with the fish section of the market. But not to fear friends and family, SL has a ton of beans and nuts that pretty much rock. Rice/bean burgers; definitely don’t knock them until you try them.
At the end of the day, I have found spam or a.k.a canned ‘luncheon’ meat is bomb with mayonnaise (or mayonnaise with anything rocks). Eggs made or eat a million ways makes me splendidly happy. It’s not a great idea to head to the market after having several drinks (Linds, Frosty Jacks to be more specific) because you may come home with a trunk ton of cabbage. Meg Welsh is Irish so, of course, corn beef and cabbage stew happened to our some what drunken mistake as well as coleslaw ( yep, she is southern as well and a wicked coleslaw constructor).
Most of our mean have been cooked, fried, baked or boiled from fresh ingredients we find in the local market which is an adventure all itself and a story for another time. But our daily trips to the market has shown our community we are actively participating and what to be apart of it. We are present and not hiding. But more often then not many Moyambians are confused about what we are actually cooking. They don’t understand that we are not making rice or sauce. For the future we want to cook more Sierra Leonean food but for right now we will cook on in our American way. Yes, we are going to chop the pepe (pepper in krio) instead of pound it. However, it needs to be noted that you should never underestimate the African pepe, unless you like to sweat into your curry dish.