July 11, 2011

Weekly(ish) Photo Essay: Lunch, Malian Style

If you know me at all, you know that I love food.

When I arrived in Mali and people told me to be careful of (read: avoid) the street food, I was devastated. I love street food. It's really the best way to really discover a new place.

Gelato in Rome, crepes in Paris, paper cones of alioli potatoes in Madrid, french fries in Amsterdam, hot dogs, and waffles, and cupcakes, and falafels in New York; every city is known for something delicious it serves out of a cart or street stand, including Bamako.

Then I saw the meat at the "butcher" in the market, flies swarming all over it. I saw the street side "rotisserie," a three-wall shack with a wood burning grill and a piece of newspaper protecting the meat from the bugs. And for the first few days, I was not convinced. I'll just survive on mangoes, I told myself. Who cares if I collapse from lack of protein in two months, I'll have stocked up on enough vitamin C to last a lifetime.

But then I decided that I wasn't going to let the risk of salmonella (or cholera or dysentery or e. coli) discourage me. I was a good traveler, I'd never been sick (knock on wood), and I would overcome my fear of Malian street meet.

So slowly I've been foraying into the local food here, first bolstering my immune system by brushing my teeth with the tap water, then accidentally eating a mango I forgot to wash (don't worry, Maman, I'm fine!). We wandered into a local "restaurant" our first week here, and last Friday ate roasted mutton from a somewhat sketchy (albeit, well-recommended) street rotisserie, possibly one of the most delicious decisions I've made in my life.

So far, this process has culminated with sharing a "home cooked" lunch with the ladies on Friday, prepared at the clinic and eaten with our hands! Who knows what other epicurean adventures I'll go on in the next five weeks!

So let me take you on a culinary journey through Bamako. I like to call this Lunch, Malian Style.

"Bicycle" chicken, because it's so skinny and tough. The onion sauce was delicious.
That stuff that looks like couscous is actually ground Manioc (Cassava), and it tastes the way Africa smells.
Not good.

These beef skewers were good, but I didn't like the red sauce.
Those plantains were to die for.

Delicious pork chops, with good but not stellar plantains.

Fresh, delicious, juicy mango.

Covered in lime.

I will miss you, delicious little key limes.

A tall glass of fresh squeezed ginger juice (amazing).
And a side of Bourbon. Cause, well, you know.

Haby preparing Friday lunch at the clinic

Spaghetti with a delicious sauce and meat chunks

Eating with my hands, African-style!
By the way, it is very hard to eat piping hot spaghetti with your hands.

10,000 CFA (aprox. $20) worth of roasted mutton.
I think we walked out of the Rotisserie with an entire leg.

A wonderful, civilized dinner of roast mutton, pickled onions, salad, rice, and wine.
We were invited to a home-cooked lunch at Mme. Diallo's house on her amazing terrace.
All eating was communal out of the main serving dish.
Delicious fish, rice, yellow eggplants, and sauteed onions.
At least we had forks this time!

Traditional Malian Sahara Dessert Green Tea, served in shot glasses
and poured from high up to create the foam.

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