December 2008 Archives

Dec 31, 2008 status: Making ginger juice for the New Year beach barbecue

And the nominations are ...

burkina faso
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Smetreburkinabe.JPGTen minutes into Burkina Faso, and we knew it was going to be a dead cert for that most coveted of awards: Most Friendly Border Guards Anywhere Ever. The Malians will be disappointed, I know, after a very strong showing indeed, but the Burkinabés trumped them from their very first "Bienvenue!". This is the way to welcome new arrivals to your country -- friendly, enthusiastic, helpful, interested and generally very correct. UK Customs and Immigration could certainly stand to learn a thing or two ...

Smsoumbalapounding.JPGAnd now that we've spent a (too too short) while here, that's not the only award it's been nominated for. It's up for the hotly contested Chef Most Generous With His Time prize, is the bookie's favourite for Most Surprising Yoghurt-Offal Combination, has several entries in the extremely competitive Tastiest Street Food category, and is way out in the lead in the (admittedly less competitive) Most Impressive Cross-Town Inter-Generational Search For An Obscure 70s Funk Album.

Let's open those envelopes, and find out just what they won ...

Dec 20, 2008 status: Helping Lamisi make bankupefish in Bolgatanga

Dec 18, 2008 status: Eating yoghurt baguettes in Ouagadougou

Better lait than never

burkina faso
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Smbarnabyyoghurt0001.jpgBarnaby's met so many cheese-makers on this trip that he's starting to consider himself a bit of an expert.  So since our cheddar-making experiments in Morocco he's been a bit disappointed by the lack of dairy products.  He met the occasional Fulani cattle-herder in Senegal and Mali, and admired their milk and butter, but that's been about it.

So once he got to Burkina Faso he was quite excited to see just how much people like yoghurt.  Apparently you can't even open a telecentre here without a stock of high quality yoghurt to go with your fax machine and mobile phone cards.  Smtelecentreyaourt0001.jpgPeople will happily have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just for a snack in between with a nice fresh baguette.  Perfect!

Then he noticed their slightly disturbing tendency to pair it with offal.  He's never been a big fan of offalSmoffalmenu0001.jpgBut in Ouagadougou, he pulled himself together and gave it a try: a classic baguette, yoghurt and liver combo.  Delicious!  Meaty, juicy and rich, with all the dairy goodness he'd been waiting for.  He might wait a bit before moving on to the brain, heart and kidney versions, though.

Life is a cabaret

burkina faso, mali
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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.

Dec 15, 2008 status: Drinking calabashes of millet beer at the market in Helo

Wine from the treetops

burkina faso
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Smbarnabyronier0001.JPGToday Barnaby thought he'd get Anna something nice for her birthday.  He'd noticed that she hadn't been getting her usual booze ration recently, what with spending so much time in Muslim countries.  He didn't have any money to buy any, but recently he'd heard the villagers here in Tengrela (in Burkina Faso) talking about a special kind of wine they get from the trees.

This seemed unlikely, but in the early morning he climbed up a ronier palm tree to have a look - and found a big calabash full of juice.  It didn't look much like wine, but when he had a taste he realised it was already fermenting and just a bit alcoholic, although very fresh-tasting - a bit like fresh coconut juice.  Delicious!

Smbarnabypalmwine0001.JPGSo he settled down with a bottle to wait for her to finish cooking (Awa was teaching her how to make pea beignets and peanut sweet potatoes - yum).  But after a couple of hours waiting, he was really quite thirsty, and thought he should just check the palm wine was still OK.

And a good thing he did!  It had been fermenting all day, and was much stronger now.  She probably wouldn't like the strong taste, he thought - much safer just to drink it. 

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 ...

Dec 08, 2008 status: Happy Tabaski! cooking fakouye with Kadidia in Djenné

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.

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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.

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Culinary Anthropologist