I spend a disconcerting amount of my free time looking at pictures of food. In addition to having an endlessly growing folder tab on my internet where I store all the recipes that I will make when I get home, I will sometimes just go to various grocery store websites and browse their online catalogue.
This constant brooding leads to many, many dreams about food—not the kind involving weird, huge pieces of food doing things that food doesn’t do, like talk, dance, etc.—just plain, simple dreams of me eating food. Thanks to my malaria meds (known to cause hallucinations, paranoia, and other mental health problems…awesome), I wake up from these dreams absolutely convinced that they were real. On the one hand, this is kind of torturous: I was THIS CLOSE to actually eating that chicken salad croissant with grapes and almonds. But on the other hand, it’s kind of awesome, because it’s the closest I’ll get to the delicious things I miss here, AND it’s kind of like eating a vivid yet zero-calorie meal.
Anyway, last weekend my friend Megan and I were able to attenuate some of our food cravings by going out to dinner at L’Institut Français downtown, a major toubab hub. Not only did dinner involve free bread and peanuts (don’t worry, I didn’t make any ketchup sandwiches this time…mostly because there was no ketchup), but our entrée was a huge salad with avocados, tomatoes, green beans, and chicken with basil. It was the first time in a long time that we ate something both recognizable and containing nutrients…we attacked our plates.
On the subject of food, lately I’ve been trying to eat more things sold by street vendors (this is where my parents begin cringing, but whatever). For the past few months, I have mainly stuck with buying packaged things: yogurt, cookies and crackers, and…no, wait, that’s it. But lately I’ve been branching out: For lunch I try to visit different sandwich vendors (my current favorite is a woman who makes a bean, hard-boiled egg, ketchup, hot sauce, and pepper sandwich…don’t judge). Peanuts are also a big thing here: You can buy them shelled and bagged (they’re cooked in this dirt-filled pot thing, though, so it’s good to kind of wipe them off first) and they’re super cheap (approximately 5 cents for a little snack-sized bag). The other craze: Roasted corn. This is exactly what it sounds like: People on the side of the road roasting corn over various heating contraptions. Said corn is not deemed done until it is almost completely black. It tastes like a mildly horrible mix between unpopped popcorn kernels and carcinogens, but people seem to like it.
But, in case you would like to cook Senegalese-style tonight, here’s a general recipe: Rice, “meat” (leave it ambiguous to your dinner guests; always makes things more fun), a potato and MAYBE a piece of carrot, 5 sticks of butter, 7 tablespoons of sugar, and 3 cups of oil. Serve with the same plain bread that you ate for breakfast and lunch. Don’t drink any water during the meal (slows you down) and PLEASE don’t make conversation at the table (the goal is always to finish the meal in 20 minutes or less). Aaaaand enjoy.
Pictured above: REAL-LIFE peanut vendor, as seen on my walk to work this morning; roasted corn (stock photo from google, since I felt too creepy to ask the corn vendors for a photo); REAL-LIFE sandwich vendor, although it’s hard to see through the hangings.