The following is taken from Chinyere’s blog.  She stated it all so well, I asked if I could just post her here.  Enjoy!  When you are done, you should swing by Melissa’s blog to read all about Senegalese tea.

 

It is a huge continent, within which lies so much culture, so much life. I love my “home” and I am grateful for the God-given opportunity to see and learn from/about different countries in West Africa.

Although for the most part, people can generalize and say that, “Oh, its West Africa. Things are pretty similar across that region,” I would agree, but with a pinch of salt.

There have been a lot of things that have made my adjustment to Senegal easy because of the similarities it shares with Nigeria, such as the fact that people here drive on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left, which always seemed to throw my dear Tanzanian friend Melissa off guard). Also, the style of dressing, as well as food and its core ingredients are pretty similar. But… there in the similarities lie the things that make you realize “Chinyere, you are not in Nigeria. You are in Senegal.” And one of those things is food.

Here, the core ingredient is rice. Rice is eaten a lot! Basically, every authentic Senegalese lunch is rice. If it is with chicken, it is called Yassa poulet. If it is with fish (and there is a lot of fish here… yum!), it is called Chebujen (I spelled it as it is pronounced…that is probably not the correct spelling). These meals are prepared with some many spices and ingredients, and when served, they are served with cooked carrots, eggplant, cabbage, onions, peppers, bissap, and so much more.

But for me, the beauty of an authentic Senegalese meal is not really in the content, but in the way it is eaten. The meal is prepared and dished into a big tray, or bowl, and about four to six people (depending on how big the tray or bowl is) are assigned to that “plate” of food. Below is a picture of Chebujen that we ate this past week in Mbettite at a pastor’s home.

       

Normally, you are to enjoy this meal with your hands (but people use spoons as well… OK. I have been using a spoon). You do this by taking some of the food with your fingers and squeezing it into a ball in your hand. Skillfully, you then put this ball in your mouth. I have tried on countless occasions to do this without making a mess, but I have not mastered the skill yet… but I am working on it J.

I appreciate this so much for various reasons…

1) it fosters sharing… there is nothing like sharing a plate of food with people you know, or people you don’t. It breaks down walls, and builds a sense of community. 

 

     

2) The way the food is dished, the rice is spread all over the tray and then the “fun stuff” like vegetables, or sweet potatoes, or chicken or fish are placed in the center. Every one is to eat what is in front of them. This means that you do not reach across the tray to take rice or any other food item from another part of the tray. This means that if all the carrots are to your part of the tray, you have a responsibility to break that up into enough pieces to share it with everyone. Isnt that just wonderful?

3) Thirdly, I certainly appreciate the fact that I am not required to finish all that is infront of me. Eating from a huge tray or bowl like this, means you can stop whenever you are done and you do not have to worry about leftovers being wasted, because someone else will eat it!

 

    And then after a good ol’ Senegalese meal, you drink Senegalese tea!

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