Whilst applying for the Peace Corps I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Manhattan. St Xaviers and Francis jsut by Union Square is the biggest feeding programme in the city. Every sunday it feeds over a thousand people a hot nutritious lunch for free. I’m not sure if it’s irony but I dreamed of those dinners last night. A hot steaming compartmentalised tray with 6 differnt items – turkey, potatoes, cabbage, cranberry, soup, bread and some dessert – CAKE! Oh my gosh! I’m constantly upset about food. It’s definitely the biggest challenge here, seeing how little food your family has to eat, dealing with the lack of variety, the lack of fruit and vegetables, the absence of meat, the stinky bony dried fish.
I had it so good working in a nice restaurant in New York. Free beautiful food – as much succulent free range chicken as I could eat. Beautiful green salads. The only green thing I get to eat here is okra and for some reason Gambians drain alot of the goodness out of a lot of it by cutting it up and drying it on the top of barrels.
A typical dinner here for me consists of cold coos, a pounded millet which basically tastes like sand (it doesn’t help that the mortars that are used to pound it are filthy and usually conatin plenty of actual sand to mix in with the millet). This is accompanied by a small blob of sauce made from groundnuts, onions, and dried fish called domada, and maybe a bitter tomatoe or two – a relative of eggplant/aubergine that looks like a tomatoe but just tastes horrible.
This is all eaten out of a large food bowl with maybe 6 to 8 other people all vying for a piece of the action. The men eat first. No one talks whilst eating. It’s not much fun.