As anyone who has ever known me knows, I LOVE food. I have an enormous sweet tooth (really all the teeth in my mouth are “sweet”…) so sweets (especially chocolate) are highest on my list, but I also love all types of food – and I love cooking and baking food besides just eating it. St. Olaf College, where I went for undergrad, has an amazing cafeteria (ranked third in the nation most recently I believe), and I used to joke that the reason I played basketball in college was so I could eat more in the caf and not get fat. With that said, the hardest thing for me so far being a volunteer here in Senegal is the food. The Senegalese people love their ceebu jen (rice and fish) and ceeb in general, so there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the diet. And I can’t really cook much for myself because of limited ingredients (there is no such thing as a grocery store in my village where I can find anything I could ever dream of from anywhere in the world) and limited cooking utensils (think wood fire or gas stove [like a camping stove with one burner] with no counter to chop vegetables, or big bowls to mix things, or oven to bake things… All in all, as much as I like the food here (and I am getting more used to it – though as I get more used to it, I also begin to get more bored with it) I will definitely miss the variety of food I was used to in the States and the freedom and independence to cook what I wanted when I wanted it. This is all part of the experience though, and I will only complain once. And it’s not even so much complaining as stating a fact, because the food is certainly not something that would ever lead me to consider leaving here early – it will make me that much more excited about packages, though! :)
We made brownies today (10/19/09) – or at least we tried. It was pretty amazing. We used a very basic recipe that involved butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa powder (which we didn’t have so we substituted it with hot cocoa mix). We didn’t have a brownie pan either, so we used a pie pan. There isn’t really much of a way to control the temperature of the oven, but we think we had it set to around 350 degrees F. I announced to the rest of the PCVs in the Kaolack regional house that they “were more than welcome to come to the kitchen to nibble on our first failed attempt at brownies” – I said “failed” because the middle was still gooey while the outside was crusty and bubbly, with the sugar almost caramelized. Everyone loved them (and us) so much though for trying to make them, though – they repeatedly asked me why I had said it was a failed attempt because they didn’t think it was a failure at all. In order to rectify the issues with our first batch of brownies, we decided to add more flour and another egg. We think the problem was that we had added more hot chocolate mix since it’s not as concentrated as cocoa powder, and the hot chocolate mix has sugar added, so we probably ended up adding too much sugar to the mix. After adding more flour and sugar, we also decided to just make them into cookies, which worked pretty good for the most part – they were just really flat, but delicious nonetheless!
Later that night I made Snickerdoodles, which are essentially sugar cookies plus cinnamon. They were even better than the brownie/cookies (which is quite a feat I must admit!) – I will definitely be making those cookies again in the future. Tonight I’m going to try to make banana bread – something I used to make all the time when I was at Cornell. I think it could turn out really really good…!
While I’m on the topic of food, I want to mention that several Volunteers slaughtered a sheep last night at the Kaolack regional house (where we’re all staying before we get “installed” – i.e. before we move into our new homes, which will be tomorrow for me), and it was delicious. We had sautéed carrots and onions plus mashed potatoes to go along with the meat – it was quite a feast! Tonight we’re going to have vegetable soup made in sheep broth. We’ve learned to be quite resourceful and creative here.