Culinary Anthropologist

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  1. Jus de gingembre

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    One of the many good things about travelling in Senegal was the widespread availability of fresh fruit, root and flower juices, typically sold in small plastic bags by smiley, buxom ladies on street corners.  At first perplexed as to how one drinks from a plastic bag, we soon learnt you nip off a corner with your teeth and then suck out the delicious juice as you continue round the market.  Nothing could be better on a hot, dusty day.

    Smjuslocaux0002.JPGGinger was our favourite; its intense zinginess can’t fail to jolt you awake and fill you with an overwhelming sense of vitality.  Also excellent were bouye (made from the fruit of the giant baobab tree), ditakh (some kind of cucumbery tasting fruit we never identified), and bissap (infused with dried, crimson hibiscus flowers, often with mint).

    Smbissapmarket0001.JPGSmbissap0002.JPG

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  2. Jus de gingembre

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    One of the many good things about travelling in Senegal was the widespread availability of fresh fruit, root and flower juices, typically sold in small plastic bags by smiley, buxom ladies on street corners.  At first perplexed as to how one drinks from a plastic bag, we soon learnt you nip off a corner with your teeth and then suck out the delicious juice as you continue round the market.  Nothing could be better on a hot, dusty day.

    Smjuslocaux0002.JPGGinger was our favourite; its intense zinginess can’t fail to jolt you awake and fill you with an overwhelming sense of vitality.  Also excellent were bouye (made from the fruit of the giant baobab tree), ditakh (some kind of cucumbery tasting fruit we never identified), and bissap (infused with dried, crimson hibiscus flowers, often with mint).

    Smbissapmarket0001.JPGSmbissap0002.JPG

    (more…)

  3. Life is a cabaret

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    Smbarnabydogonbeer0001.jpgA couple of weeks ago, when Barnaby was in Mali, he came across something very interesting in the Dogon village of Djiguibombo.  Hidden away in women’s houses were huge clay pots of bubbling liquid: millet beer. 

    A little odd he thought, for a largely Muslim country, until he realised most Dogon pay more dues to their ancestors than to Allah. 

    Unfortunately for him this beer wasn’t quite ready to drink.  Millet beer takes three days to make, and each day a different woman’s batch is ready.  Having not quite yet fathomed the finer points of Dogon culture and society, Barnaby had gone to the wrong house.

    Smbarnabylobibeer0001.jpgBut today in Burkina Faso, Barnaby couldn’t help but find the right place.  While visiting the evening market in the (equally animist) Lobi village of Hélo, he found that every other stall was in fact a pub, or as they call it round here, a cabaret.  One smiley lady with a big blue barrel of her home-made millet beer beckoned him in to her stall.  

    So he took a seat next to the men on the log and had a little calabash full to see if he liked it.  He did.  Quite like cider, he thought.  So he had another bigger one. 

    Then someone got out the salty juicy chunks of pork, and Barnaby thought perhaps he’d arrived in animist heaven.

  4. My mate marmite

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    Smbaobabroad.jpgOur experiences crossing from Mauritania to Senegal had left us slightly wary of border officials, but that definitely changed when we crossed into Mali.  On the Senegalese side, the police and customs were cheery, chatty and helpful (if quite hard to actually find).  On the Malian side, they just invited us in for lunch.

    A few kilometres of dusty plains covered with enormous baobab trees, and we found ourselves sitting outside a customs hut with three friendly douaniers, sharing their thiou and their thiep – a delicious meaty stew, and a tasty rice dish studded with vegetables, garlicky chilli paste and savoury hibiscus-leaf sauce.  If all of Mali was like this, we thought, we’d probably get on OK.

    Smdouaniersthiep.jpgAnd as it turned out, a great deal of it was.  We spent a lot of time in Mali sharing food with people: cooking it with them in big bubbling marmites on charcoal fires; and then eating together, with everyone gathered round one big pot using their fingers.  This is partly because we’re greedy, of course; but also because people here are so sociable.  And because Tabaski was coming, and the rams were getting fat …

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  5. Aminata pounding millet

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    Smaminatapounding0001.JPGToday in the Dogon village of Djiguibombo we learnt how to make – a kind of thick millet porridge which is pretty much the staple food in this part of Mali.  We learnt from an expert: Aminata, who is 15 and has been making the for her whole family since her mother died some years ago.  And we realised how hard work it is: you have to pound the millet into flour by hand in an enormous mortar & pestle.  Just listen to how hard she hits it.

    It’s worth listening to this using headphones or proper speakers – on laptop speakers you can’t really hear the bass sounds of the pounding properly.

    Click here to listen.

    Click here for more audio samples.

    Smaminata0001.jpgSmaminatastirring0001.JPGSmtobowl0001.JPG

  6. Balafon and djembe

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    Smsegousunset0001_1.JPGWent out drinking in Ségou this evening, and found a band (Groupe Pawari) playing in a bar.  One guy with a balafon, one with a very loud djembe drum, and someone occasionally doing a bit of singing.  Actually they all seemed to be able to play all the instruments – especially Issa.

    We didn’t take any photos of the band, or the bar.  So here’s one of the sunset instead.

    Click here to listen.

    Click here for more audio samples.