18 September 2010

You Did What with the Pepe?

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.


Janelle Songstad said...

Alli, Sounds like you are enjoying yourself. Your writing makes me feel as if I can see and hear what you are describing. i think of you often. Be good and safe. Love, Janelle

Anonymous said...

Knowing your past experience in the kitchen, I really enjoyed these comments. You have to get a picture in "your" kitchen of some of this action. I have a vision, but sure it does not do justice to the actually action. I am sure in time you will find cooking therapeutic! Enjoy!

John said...

Alli, This is John Giorgio, a friend of Harlan Temple's and a former non-PCV volunteer in Freetown from 91-92 (we evacuated along with PCVs and missionaries when Strasser toppled JS Momoh) Sounds like you are experiencing daily life in all its glory in Moyamba. I like the WAWA phrase. We just used to look at each other and say "It will make a great story" as increasingly more bizarre events occured. Your Mende woman accosting you in the marketplace, for instance. Inexplicable stuff regardless how long one lives in the place. Be gentle with yourself on the Mende language - I never had to go beyond Krio as I was a Freetown boy, but my PCV friends did not always nail down Mende, Temne, or Limba despite earnest efforts. Keep on dancing to the retro tunes - is Lucky Dube still popular? I always laugh to hear dance hall being more popular in t he states these days since I was hearing it in cafes in Freetown 20 years ago. What goes around comes around. Peace to you and your friend as you continue to go deeper into your life as PCVs. An old woman at work always used to refer to the fact that I did not know "the deep Krio". USed to hack me off, cuz I thought she was just holding something over my head just to have a one up on me. Yet, there was something to what she was saying in that I did not understand all the nuances and slang of the language even after a year there. In the same way, there is a "deep Krio" aspect to being an expat really trying to be "with" the people and enter into the culture. There is no end to the learning and it can be disorienting at various times along the way - Strange transformations is a good term for it. So, I will not try to explain the inexplicable, just encouraging the two of you not to get too discouraged when the whole "purpose" thing gets fuzzy and the freshness is dulled, By God in powa. (By God's power)

John said...

Oh, one more cooking/fish related thing. We had great luck cooking Salone food under the guidance of friends, but had to eat Pumwi food now and then. My co-volunteer Mary had a yen for Fish and Chips, so she selected a fine silver fresh fish at the market one morning. She wanted to fry it up right away, but i told her we had to "clean" it. She thought we were going to rinse it off and was offended that I thought she didn't know that. Then I started taking the scales off and she thought it was pretty gross. Needless to say she nearly passed out when I started to gut it. She evacuated until supper was cooked and we never had homemade fried fish again! Do keep having fun:)