I think the thing everyone is most curious about is food! In Wolof, the word is ñam. In Senegal we eat family style for lunch, but for breakfast and dinner we eat at the same time but not out of the same bowl.
For breakfast typically there is an assortment of peanut butter, beans, jam, and chocolate on bread- typically a baguette cut into pieces. Every morning at CBT I’ve had a third of a baguette with chocopain (local brand of chocolate spread) and a glass of warm sweet milk. It’s rare to find milk that is not powdered here, and even if you did, it’s very expensive and most families don’t have the ability to store it, so most families buy powdered milk. Many simple luxuries like trash pick up and refrigerators are not accessible to many Senegalese, so life here has adapted to that over time. Besides milk, there’s instant coffee we call “nescafe” and café touba which is like coffee but with mass amounts of sugar. And of course tea, but only black lipton tea. Options are limited.
This typically varies between: chebujën (rice and fish), red or white, yaasa (a meat and onion sauce), and soupo kanja (fish rolled into balls). We eat together, as a family, around a single bowl that looks like this.
Most families also eat lunch on a Bassang, which is kind of like a plastic mat. Depending on the family, some eat with their hands, and others may eat with spoons. Some may give spoons according to gender roles. My brothers have priority over utensils as opposed to my mom and sister even though they’re the oldest. My father also tends to eat separately from us. He has his own bowl and he eats at a table. Since I am a guest, I also have priority for spoons over my mom and sister. It’s not that my family doesn’t have spoons, there are plenty of spoons, however the Senegalese enjoy eating with their hands because it allows them to have a close relationship with it. That seems kind of odd, but think of it this way, say you really love some food, wouldn’t you enjoy eating it with your hands more than with a fork? Okay, I tried.
Because there is limited food, and as a guest, I wait to be thrown food. My mom divides the vegetables and fish up so we all can have some. I don’t reach towards to center to eat, though I could, I am more comfortable not doing so with my host family. Then, I eat the pizza slice of food in front of me. My family does fairly well, so I always feel like I get sufficient amounts of veggies and fish. Also my mom likes to give me more than her children because I am her guest. It’s seen as shameful if a family’s guest loses weight because it means the family is not being hospitable (teranga, wolof word) and is not providing enough. But it’s a hard balance in honoring my family because I feel guilty for being given more food and eating too little (which my family complains I eat very little 3 times a day after each meal).
I think you’ll be surprised to learn I eat very American like food for dinner. At the training center I’ve eaten spaghetti, chicken, and fish all with a side of salad. At CBT I typically eat an egg sandwich with lettuce, onion sauce, and fries. Yes, fries! We actually eat fries often, I think it’s because of the potato abundance and easy cooking method. We also eat beans and bread or spaghetti and bread (yup double carbs).
I hope you observed these things:
-My diet is no where near balanced
-I eat a lot of carbs
-I have very little variety
-These foods are not that different to ones I can find in the States
Once I get to site I hope to gain much more control over my diet. My current plan is to eat only lunch with my family, but eat breakfast and dinner on my own. I’ll have a little stove so I can do that, but also my regional house is so close that I can retreat there if I want to really cook.
For now I’m happy to report I’m adapting well to the carb heavy diet though I think I’ve gained some weight, but thats okay, adapting is a give and take process. I am loving my time here and the food is pretty good too!