|Our Tabaski Ram|
|Freshly ground pepper over onions|
|Our ram waiting its fate.|
|The kiddos watching the sacrifice|
|Carrying the marinade|
|Transferring the meat to the cauldron|
|A feast to behold|
[OKAY, IT’S SAFE TO COME BACK NOW.] We marinated the mouton (French for sheep) in a blend of Dijon mustard, onion juice, vinegar, and pepper (both black and red); the onions were pulled out of the marinade and cooked to make a sauce. After tossing the meat in the marinade, we put it in large cauldron to stew over a wood fire before grilling each piece over charcoal. The meal was served on platters artfully arranged with a big heaping pile of meat in the center, surrounded by onion sauce and dollops of mashed potatoes, then peppered with green olives. We ate in segregated groups of men, women, and children and used our hands and pieces of bread to feed ourselves. At my platter, it was not uncommon to see two women tugging at either side of a big piece of meat to free it from it’s bone. I have to say, tearing into freshly-killed meat like that felt a little barbaric.
After lunch, and I mean immediately after lunch, the food left on the platters was consolidated to one tray and a subgroup of people started eating once again, leaving nothing to spare. Soon after that, one of my cousins tasked herself with picking meat from the bones of some other pieces that had been stewing all day and another group of women started deep-fat frying innards. It was a veritable meat-fest all day long. Throughout the day, most people were wearing and showing off the new clothes they’d had made for the occasion and almost all of the women were sporting new hair extensions. These are really big here in Senegal and come in all shapes and sizes. To my surprise, in the late afternoon/early evening, people began changing into formal attire--I’m talking sequined ball gowns. Neighbors came a-calling and little kids went house-to-house requesting small treats and money. As my mom and her nieces sat around her salon de vivre (living room) all dressed up with no where to go, I recalled a now-infamous statement my grandmother once made on Thanksgiving morning several years ago when hours had been spent prepping for an outdoor brunch on a very cold Oregon morning. After we ate, we were all huddled around a fire, wrapped up in our coats and scarves to keep warm when she looked up and exclaimed, “well, this is just stupid!” Acknowledging this at some point in the day has become a holiday tradition in my family.
Click here to view a play-by-play (uncensored) album of my Tabaski experience (Come on, be brave. There are a lot of great pictures in this album.)
|A fancy Thanksgiving|
Well, lucky for me, I also got to enjoy celebrating an American Thanksgiving here in Senegal. About 60 Peace Corps volunteers and staff members joined the Ambassador at her residence for a delightfully civilized Thanksgiving feast. This was my first trip into Dakar that wasn’t an organized event, so that in itself added to the festiveness of it all. Everyone who came into town traveled individually or in small groups so the arrivals at the regional house were spread out over a couple of days.
I arrived from Thiès with my friend Jackie after we’d both attended a short French workshop earlier in the week. She was able to show me the ropes on getting into and around Dakar. Our journey was short (it took just under 2 hours from Thiès), but that included 1) pulling off the highway 6 times to lift the hood of the car to wiggle a few wires so the engine would start again, 2) waiting while the driver got a ticket for going the wrong way down the street, and 3) being yelled at by a street vendor for running over a shoe, luckily there was no foot in the shoe, but the vendor was irritated nonetheless. Taking all of that into consideration, we made pretty good time and the driver took us directly to our destination--a hotel bar downtown that was serving 2-for-1 happy hour drinks…halleluiah, a real glass of red wine (well, 2 actually!) I tried my best to ignore the fact that the wine was served cold, because it was served in a real wine glass, with a stem and everything--plus one does not turn down anything cold in this hellaciously hot country. We met several other PCVs there and one of them had a friend visiting from home (NOTE TO FRIENDS & FAMILY: This is a mighty fine idea for next year, so give it some thought.) We dined in a neighboring hotel’s restaurant and had Thai Beef Salads…a nice change of pace from our current diet of rice and fish.
|One artichoke = $7 US, aack!|
We arrived back at the house just in time for a regional house costume party. The invitation requested that we “come dressed as would have been appropriate at the first Thanksgiving ”. We had some interesting interpretations to that theme and if I had to give out prizes they would have been to:
- 1st Prize - Small Pox -- a person covered in colorful hole punch reinforcers who spent the evening “spreading the disease”, targeting the Indians first, of course.
- 2nd Prize - The Niña, The Pinta, and The Santa Maria -- 3 people decked out in African waxcloth duds patterned with tall ships….and yes, it took many people several hours to realize that they had arrived to dinner a couple of centuries too late.
- 3rd Prize - A Center-Piece with accompanying candelabra -- this 3-person costume centered around a bridesmaid‘s dress that arrived in a care package too late for the wedding.
- Runners Up - to all the Pilgrims, Indians, and Turkeys because they were so creative in the construction of their costumes, and to the Macy’s Day Parade Charlie Brown Float, cause that was thinking outside the box!!
|Small Pox scoping out the Indians|
|PCVs being as un-PC as we can be|
|The Niña, the Pinta, & the Santa Maria|
|Waddle she think of next?|
|Note the traced-hand turkey skirt|
|Centerpiece with Candelabras|
|A mighty fine pilgrim hat|
|A Macy's Parade Float|
|We make due with what we have..|
The next day volunteer and staff kitchens around the city were all aflutter in preparation for our big meal with the ambassador. I made Moroccan Carrots (see below for recipe), and we had a variety of other tasty vittles, including casseroles, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, cornbread, salads, pies, etc… Although we’d all cleaned up well for our arrival to dinner, the pots and pans we transported the food in had been seen better days. Luckily, the ambassador’s staff transferred everything to china serving platters and it all looked as lovely as it tasted. Her Excellency, Madam Bernicat, not only opened her home and provided us with her good company for this event, but she also supplied three golden brown turkeys and an endless supply of chilled wine and freshly brewed coffee. Ahhh, what an enjoyable evening. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you good tax-paying American citizens. That was just the dose of home that I needed.
|Making Pasta Salad|
|Finding our names on the Guest List|
|A beautifully set table.|
|Enjoying pre-dinner cocktails|
|Her Excellency capturing a shot|
1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp. salt
Chopped parsley and/or cilantro
1. Cooked carrots until just fork tender (al dente).
2. Mix remaining ingredients (minus the parsley/cilantro) and marinate the carrots in this mixture at room temperature for several hours.
3. Stir in chopped parsley/cilantro just before serving.
This dish was passed down from my father’s boss Candace. It’s easy to prepare and carry to a pot luck and is ALWAYS the hit of the party.