Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Meals in Senegal

Today marks my twelfth day in Senegal! I’m still getting the hang of things and observation is still my main daily activity, but I’m feeling much more comfortable and settled in my new home. Things that seemed completely foreign when I first arrived are starting to feel more normal, like eating meals, getting around with public transit, interacting with family and showering! Let me explain:

Family meals~ Senegalese Style:

Breakfast wasn’t much of an adjustment other than the fact that Mama Africa thinks that I should be eating a whole baguette every morning. When I come downstairs (usually between 8 and 8:30) for breakfast, Fama, the maid, goes to the kitchen to get my breakfast. I felt quite uncomfortable being served at first, but Mama would insist that I let her get my breakfast. Now I usually go to the Kitchen with Fama to talk a little as she heats the tea and I grab the tray with the baguette, the butter and cloth napkin. Since there’s no table to eat at (I’ll get to that later) I eat my breakfast in the TV room and watch the news. Once I slipped out of the house to go to work without breakfast because I wasn’t really hungry and wanted to get going. Later in the day when I saw Mama Africa, she gave me a long speech about how important it is to eat a good breakfast so I don’t think I’ll be doing that again soon. I have managed however to get away with only eating half of the baguette.

Lunch (aneh) is the main meal of the day and is served at around 2 or 2:30. When the meal is ready, Fama lays a mat out on the floor, sets down a few footstools and brings out a large metal bowl to place in the middle. Once everyone is seated (women on the floor, men on the stools) large soupspoons are handed out to everyone and the meal begins. The most common meal Tiebou Dien is basically rice with a flavorful red sauce and fish and veggies. Even though everyone eats out of the same large bowl, each person has his or her own area to eat from. Its best described as if the bowl were sliced like a pizza, the slice in front of you is what you eat. At first this seemed a little strange to me, but it actually works out really well and I always have plenty of food! The other major difference about meals here is that it is not a time for conversation as it is in the US. Everyone focuses on their food and very rarely is anything said. When people feel they’ve had enough they simply put down their spoon and leave the area. After lunch is over most people relax or take a nap before going back to work or do anything else.

Dinner (reehr) is very similar to lunch in the way that it is eaten in served, but it’s usually a little smaller and its not served until 8pm at the earliest. Another thing that’s different about lunch and dinner is that you aren’t served any drinks with your meal. No water or anything.

Like I said, there was a lot to get used to when I arrived, but I was noticing today how normal it felt already to eat in silence and from my portion of the bowl. It still feels strange to just leave when other people are still eating, but I expect that will change in time as well.


  1. IS the food very 'spicy'? It sounds like you are adapting to new things very well... So how about the showers? -Dad

  2. Yummmmm! I found the communal bowl to be more intimate somehow. Plus you can eat however much (or little) you want without it being an issue. I'm curious about showers too.

  3. We should try this when you get home. Do you think dad could be silent through a whole meal?