As Assistant Coordinator of AVN Senegal I am in charge of research and development on training and technical issues and co-manage deployment in the field while assisting with strategy and networking.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Causes for Celibration

Exciting development #1: Puppy

Pop got a new dog! Now my daily routine includes taking the dog with me to the garden every morning, and back in the evening. He spends all day at the garden, while I commute twice, making it back to the village for lunch. His future profession is monkey-slayer. Monkeys are a serious pest in gardens like Pop’s, destroying crops, stealing mangos, and generally wrecking havoc. Pop used to have a dog to protect the farm, but the dog fought a gang of five monkeys, killing them all but succumbing to his wounds several days afterwards.

I named the pup Blaze. Blaze enjoys eating the millet mush I so despise, and especially likes the fish bones, my least favorite part. Our diets dovetail quite well, with him getting plenty of scraps to eat. Occasionally he and I both share in the bounty of a fresh-cooked feast in Pop’s garden, which leads me to:

Exciting development #2: Bush meat

The other day, Pop went hunting in the forest and came back with a creature resembling a badger. He stewed it for several hours over the fire with onion, sweet potato, salt, and spices. It was delicious. It had a texture and flavor much like a cross between dark chicken meat and slow-cooked pork shoulder, surprisingly fatty and tender. That day we all stuffed ourselves to excess.

Exciting Development #3: Beans

As delicious and filling as bush meat is, I’ve only had it once, so for the daily grind I need a more consistent food source. I’ve finally got a system together for cooking my own bean stews. The survivalists on the interwebs taught me about ‘thermal cooking,’ which comes in very handy when the world ends, anarchy reigns, and one needs to economize cooking fuel. Essentially I soak my beans overnight, then add all my other stew ingredients (potato, carrot, onion, garlic, peppers, salt, etc) bring to boil, simmer for 15 min, then take it off the burner, wrap it in a blanket, then inside my 15 degree down sleeping bag, then stuff the bundle into a plastic bucket. My improvised thermal cooker does such a good job of insulating heat that the pot is still too hot to handle for up to 14 hours after. As far as I understand, the stew continues to cook for several hours after leaving the burner, and then just stays hot. Whatever happens, it yields a scrumptious and hearty stew. Now my only problem is storage, since I don’t want to have to cook beans every day, and they spoil after about 36 hours.

Exciting Development #4: Banana bread

I love banana bread. Now I can bake it here. It’s not quite the same as back home, and the thought of tossing in a handful of something as precious as the chocolate chips I brought all the way from Washington DC is abhorrent (what if the bread gets ruined and I lose all 63 chocolate chips????) so it was a little plain. But still, it was tasty and reminded me of home. My neighbor routinely stokes the large clay oven with firewood, burning it down to coals and then producing dozens of loaves of bread (this bread has become another of my staples) and when he was done working the oven the other day I asked him to toss in a bowl full of my improvised banana bread batter (all those years of baking my own banana bread without following a recipe has finally paid off). It turned out baked to perfection. I shared it with my family, neighbor, and Pop, and all agreed that whatever the strange bread creation was that the American had made, it was darn good.

I just realized that three out of the four topics I wrote about are food related. This reflects quite accurately my preoccupation with feeding myself. I do other things of course, like work and interact socially. But trying to stay well-fed (in the American sense of the word) is much more difficult and time-consuming here than it was in the US. I find it somewhat perplexing that many people in the US spend more time trying NOT to eat so much.

Work has been going well. Several villagers have approached me with a desire for fruit trees so I have given out tree sacks, seeds, and advice. Nothing large-scale yet, just small 20-50 sack pepinaires to enlarge orchards and start new ones. My garden continues to grow, well some of it does. The carrots, corn, sage, and oregano failed to germinate entirely, and the green beans have a paltry 5% germination rate. Others, like the beets, broccoli, squash, kale, tomatoes, and snap peas are looking much more promising. Still, it compromises a bed of 3-sisters when one sister no-shows, the second is non-committal, and the third has to pick up the slack.

Some other random photos:

Two kids who helped me fill, place, and seed this pepinaire in my yard. The one on the right is one of Pop's sons, Andala.

The kind of brand loyalty I give to Chaco deserves sponsorship. In the background are my pepinaires (I have papaya, guava, moringa, and several species of thorny trees growing), and my solar panels getting some use out of the blazing sun.

1 comment:

  1. Creative Cooking with Patrick! Humor and determination is a great mix.