Friday, December 7, 2012

The Great Meal

As I was having the film developed, from "A Day in the Life" cameras, I noticed a very obvious similarity. On each camera there were either pictures taken of villagers eating together, preparing food, working in the fields or pictures of agriculture. It seems to me that the act of having a shared meal is very important. I was curious, so I asked Maritza (she has been living in Guinea Bissau for 8 or 9 yrs) to share with me what she has learned about eating traditions in Guinea Bissau and I also did a bit of online research as well.

 "A Day in the Life" photo from Quinantino Ford - Camera #5
West African meals are heavy on starchy foods, light on meat, generous on fat and usually cooked in one pot.  Most dishes are some form of stew. The most telling characteristic of an African dish is heat: chili peppers are used beyond what we would begin to think of as hot.
Our traditional meal in Dakar Senegal

The most notorious peppers, the Scotch Bonnets and the pilli pilli, earn respect from even the most dedicated chili-heads. Equatorial climates all tend to encourage the use of chilies, as these hot foods produce the effect of "gustatory sweating "distinguished from other types of bodily perspiration and resulting in an overall cooling effect. Source: West Africa, What they eat 
Guineans eat once a day in the afternoon. Most do not eat breakfast. Just one meal with about 4 cups of rice and topped with what is called “mafre”, which is a mixture of a bouillon cube with a little fish or chicken, or whatever they decide. During the day, if they get hungry before the “great meal”, they eat cashews or mangoes as they are in abundance. By the time the rainy season sets in, the trees are no longer bearing fruit.  During this time the people will depend on rice but by this time it is almost gone. Most of the supply of rice is eaten during June and July.

There is a time in Guinea Bissau, called, the months of hunger. Generally this occurs during June – Sept. By this time the cashew and mango trees have ceased to bear fruit. Guineans do not have any more food available for them and their rice crops generally die out during these months. These are their most extreme month where food is concerned.

This is a picture of the meal we shared with the men in Djati when we attended the opening of the new school this past February. I must admit, it was VERY GOOD!! My plan was not to eat anything from the village because the sanitation is sub standard and they had no clean water. However, since it was a celebration, and chiefs and leaders had come from all over the area, it would have been, beyond rude, to decline to share in the meal.  So....I ate. I only ate ONE spoonful and then I kind of pretended to eat by stirring the food. But that, one spoonful was DELICIOUS! I wished I could have eaten more. Please note, I did have an episode with the dreaded travelers digestive disorder wen I returned to the US. Not sayin it was eating that one bite....just sayin!

Some of the women of Djati with children wait outside the old school while we eat with the men

Help Build a Medical Clinic in Djati, Guinea Bissau


Toni said...

I love this post because making and sharing a meal together is what makes a family and a connection between people. It is how you show your love and caring. And it allows time together each day to share stories of the day or to express emotions. The one sad thing about being single is not having someone to share ameal with. So accept every opportunity to say yes when asked to dinner, or to have someone over to share whatever you are preparing ... especially now in times when people feel so disconnected.

devon said...

Great advice. Thanks!