African, Senegal Foods & Madasgascar
Senegal is a semitropical country; warm, sunny and colorful. Nowhere ... Africa do the women wear more exquisite fabrics-the brilliant swatches of cloth wound around them and arranged on their heads in enormous bandannas. They have the elegant bearing of women accustomed to carrying bundles or jugs of water on their heads. They like to hold in their mouths tiny twigs made from a special bark and sometimes decorated, with which they rub their teeth from time to time. The men also present an interesting picture in their long, bright, loose "boo-boos" and skullcaps.
The food markets of Senegal teem with color-the bright garb of the vendors blending with their wares of tropical fruits and vegetables. Peanuts are the main crop of Senegal and everywhere the aroma of roasted peanuts permeates the air. Seafood is the mainstay of the diet. The meats eaten less frequently are beef, lamb, and chicken. You'll find no pork, as many Senegalese are Muslims.
The influence of French food in Senegal is unmistakable, yet Senegalese food has a quality of its own, with dishes from many other parts of the world and other parts of Africa incorporated into the cuisine. Rice is the main starch, with the Couscous of northern Africa also being a great favorite.
Dakar, hot and humid but lovely, is the most important city of Senegal. Here one can have fabulous meals at Le Baobab, Tam Tam, and Les Cannibales Deux-restaurants which could compete with the finest anywhere. Gabriel, our handsome, tall (6-foot 4-inch) taxi driver, took us to the outskirts of Dakar where he and his friends have their lunch and we found delicious Thiou a la Wande, a meat stew. In the Casamance region north of Dakar, Yassa, a chicken specialty with onions and lemon, is prepared. In the village of Soumbedioune, where Senegalese crafts are displayed and where you will see fishermen bringing their catch in from the sea, you may have Thebouidienne, the freshly caught fish simmered with vegetables, including white and sweet potatoes, poured over large mounds of white rice.
How a Dinner is Served in Senegal
When dining in one of the excellent Senegalese restaurants, you will select an appetizer from a list of twenty or twenty-five, all prepared with great care. The soups will be rich and full-bodied. There will be entrees in abundance; Yassa, Mate, and beautiful Couscous among them. Then a long list of fancy desserts, all served with great flair.
Or you might be served at one of the open-air restaurants where food is cooked on small tournieres, or broilers, which look like hibachis. They average about 15 inches in diameter and are sometimes round and sometimes square. The fourniere has a grate at the bottom and heat is regulated by adding or removing hot charcoal with tongs as required. (At one school we visited there were about fifty of them in the new home- economics department where cooking classes were about to begin.)In a Senegalese home you would follow the custom of pouring water over your hands as you enter the dining area and then you would wipe them on a common cloth. After the guests are seated you would probably be served a stew-type dish with rice such as Thiou au Poulet, pronounced "chew," a special chicken stew; Mate aux Arachid, meat stew with groundnuts; or Thebouidienne, the delightful fish dish (all included in the recipe section). These would be served in deep enamel bowls, each seeming to be enough for three or four people. Then you would proceed to dip in with the first three fingers of your right hand. This takes getting used to but, once mastered, does seem to add to the food. Fruits would be served as the dessert, followed by coffee and tea.
How You Can Present a Senegalese Dinner
A Senegalese dinner should be served with dignity and elegance. Use brightly colored tablecloths with contrasting napkins for a startling effect. Set your table with scented candles to evoke the perfume of the lush green Casamance region of Senegal where lemons and onions are combined for the Chicken Yassa. Have fresh flowers in reds and yellows to suggest the vivid colors of the flower markets. Decorate the table with African artifacts if you have them. Dishes should be plain white china or glass as a contrast to this color.
If you want to serve a cocktail, try the Senegali Sunshine, which you will find in the beverage section.
Start dinner with the Avocat aux Crevettes. Another appetizer you might consider is Assiette Cannibale of Senegal (in the recipe section). The Yassa is served individually from the kitchen and is followed by La Salade Cote Cap Verte. Salads are often eaten after the main course in Senegal.
When presenting the dessert, explain that Mamadou is the young owner of Les Cannibales Deux Restaurant in Dakar who went to Paris to learn French cooking techniques. The Banana Glace is his own creation and his most popular dessert.Demitasse is served in the living room after dinner. You may want to serve some "Five-Cent Cookies" (see page 45) at this time or later in the evening.
Shopping List for Eight
4 2 1/2-lb. chickens
1/2 Ibs. shrimp (15 to 20 per lb.)
1 dozen eggs
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 pint yogurt
Vegetables and Fruits
2 large or 3 small avocados
2 heads lettuce
1 Ib. tomatoes
5 Ibs. Spanish onions
1 dozen bananas
1 bunch parsley or watercress
1 jar pimientos
1 quart salad oil
1 pint tarragon vinegar
1 pint bottled lemon juice
2 Ibs. rice
1 box black raisins
1 Ib. shelled peanuts
1 package slivered almonds
1 jar candied fruit or maraschino cherries
Madagascar, "The Great Red Island" as it is often called, is officially known as the Malagasy Republic. It is the fourth largest island in the world and is a land of sheer beauty. Ringed by golden beaches and date- palm trees, the interior varies from grassy plateaus, to volcanoes, and impenetrable equatorial forests. It is lush with a great variety of fruits such as mangos, grapes, peaches, peals, pineapples, avocados, and lichee nuts. All about are colorful flowers in abundance: orchids, violets, and mimosa.
Tananarive, the capital, is a picturesque city with narrow sloping streets and houses that seem to cling to the hillside. The open market, characteristic of all of Africa, is most exhilarating. There you will find the long black vanilla beans sold in little packets to be used in many ways, but mostly in flavoring fruit. A large portion of the crop (120 million vanilla beans) makes its way to the U.S.A. every year from Madagascar. Everywhere you see scallions, turnips, tomatoes, and a variety of green vegetables. And there is always plenty of fish.
The people of Madagascar are mostly Malayan Polynesian with some admixture of Indian, Arab, African, and European. Despite the variety of races one language is used throughout the island, Malagasy; the second language is French. Rice is the staple of the island and is served three times a day. Most of it is home grown.
You can recognize the influence of the French in the food, which is not as highly spiced as in most of Africa. While the curry is much like that of Malaysia, subtle and not overpowering, it is just different enough to be interesting. Most recipes call for a smidgen of red hot pepper, called Sakay, and it is generally served separately so that one can control the amount to taste.
The manner in which beef-Varenga- is treated is worthy of note. Beef is cut in small pieces, simmered until done, shredded, and then roasted until it is browned. It is surprisingly delicious and a good way to use left-over cooked beef.
How a Dinner is Served in Madagascar
The true Malagache serves his meal, as is done in most parts of Africa, on a mat on the floor. Everything is put down at the same time--but in the cities individual plates are used and the utensil is a large spoon (no knives or forks are used).
Dinner is a simple affair. There are no preliminaries such as snacks, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, or drinks. Guests are brought to the dining area and served directly. Today, you will find the Western influence appearing more strongly, and dining areas are being increasingly adopted.
Malagaches like their food simply prepared, flavorful, but as we have said, not highly spiced. Fruits and vegetables are utilized at their freshest, and it is not uncommon to start a meal with vegetable soup and then to serve two or three vegetables with the entree. The beverage that goes with the meal is Ranonapango, a drink made by burning rice--yes, actually burning the rice and adding water to it.
The entree might very well be a chicken or fish curry, and it is usually one of the three rice meals each day. In Malagasy curries are prepared a little differently than in other countries. A Malagache curry is included in the recipe section.
The dessert is usually fruit, flavored with vanilla. Some call Madagascar the Vanilla Island as they call Zanzibar the Spice Island. The fruit is not only prepared with vanilla, but more vanilla is added to it when it is served.
Malagasy tea, their own special brand (not available here), completes a most nutritious meal.
How You Can Present a Malagasy Dinner
It might be more authentic to serve this menu on mats placed on the floor, but in the cities of Malagasy dinner would be served at a table. For the Malagasy meal, use bright yellow tablecloths and matching napkins--on a round table, if possible, to express the feeling of friendliness.
Place the napkin on a white service plate and top each napkin with a large bright flower. An iris or any flower that resembles the orchid family would be ideal but a large daisy or other flower will also serve.
The centerpiece is a bowl of fresh fruit interspersed with some of the same flowers that adorn each plate. Dishes are plain white or solid colors.
Start with the Lasopy, the veal vegetable puree, thick and hearty and served in earthenware bowls.
The Varenga, beautifully browned shredded beef, arrives in the oven- proof dish in which it was baked and is set on a trivet. A large bowl of Vary Amin Anana, steaming hot vegetables, and the Lasary Voatabia, tomato and scallion salad, are set on the table at the same time. It is not common practice to serve bread or rolls, but be sure that a large bowl of white rice is part of the dinner.
Ranonapango, the burned-rice drink would be correct to serve with the dinner, but you might want to substitute cold lemonade or ice water. Your guests will find the dessert delicious. If you cannot obtain the fruits suggested in the Salady Voankazo (fresh fruits with lichee nuts), use any fruits that are available. Sugar them lightly and sprinkle pure vanilla extract over the fruit.
Serve tea or coffee in the usual manner.
Shopping List for Eight
3 Ibs. veal bones
4 Ibs. boneless chuck
1 Ib. soup meat
1 small can lichee nuts
Fruits and Vegetables
3 Ibs. tomatoes
1 Ib. potatoes
1 bunch carrots
1/2 Ib. turnips
1/2 Ib string beans
1/2 Ib. mustard greens
1/2 Ib. spinach
1 bunch watercress
2 bunches scallions
1 fresh pineapple
3 thick-shinned oranges
1 box strawberries
1 bottle pure vanilla extract
2 Ibs. white rice
1 box soda crackers
Lasary Voatabia Tomato & Scallion Salad
Sakay Hot red Pepper Sause
Salady Voabkazo Fruit Compote with Lichee Nuts
Varenga Roasted Shredded Beef
Vary Amin Anana Rice & Vegetables
Laspoy Vegetable Soup