Monday, January 19, 2015

Guide to being a Good Senegalese Wife

December 28th 2014 marked the one year anniversary for Mr and Mrs Mamadou Gueye! It has been a wonderful year full of excitement, learning and love. In honor of this event, Doudou and I hosted a dinner for some of our friends, an event which required only one thing from me- a perfect Senegalese style Chicken Dinner. For anyone, preparing a meal for a group of your husbands close friends can be intimidating, but even more so when you are expected to cook a meal that you have never made to the standard of women that have been preparing the meal since they were 15years old. A test which would determine if I was indeed a 'Good Senegalese Wife'...

Now, Doudou has known for a while that I will never be a Senegalese wife, however since returning to Senegal I am becoming more aware of the expectations of wives in Senegal, some of which I quite enjoy and some that I can do without. Of course these are generalizations, but from my experience these are the main points:

  1. Cooking a good Tiebu Jen (the national plate of rice and fish). This staple dish is what your family will be eating 4 out of 7 days a week so it better be good! 
  2. Keeping the house in order; as you may have guessed, this is my weakest point by far.
  3. "Topotoe" This is a Wolof word which means 'to take care of someone' specifically a wife 'taking care' of her husband. Though I've never really understood exactly what this refers to, it's always said with a wink and a nod and occasionally followed by questions about certain under-garments I may or may not own (ok that was only one time)...
  4. Bareing strong sons; though now a days the thinking on this is becoming more pragmatic given the higher costs of living and introduction of family planning techniques.

While expectations on Senegalese wives can be high, there is one main asset of which I am a BIG fan: Sister support! Senegalese women work together and are constantly lending a hand especially within families. I was very grateful to experience this myself when Doudou's sister, Astu Gueye, agreed to spend her afternoon teaching me how to prepare a perfect Chicken Dinner! Thank God for sisters.

With Astu's help the Anniversary Dinner was a great success and I think all of Doudou's friends are now convinced without a doubt that I am a good Senegalese wife. Though it was not the most romantic anniversary we will ever have, it was a wonderful evening and great to become closer to Doudou's friends and family.

See attached the recipe for Senegalese style chicken with pictures (sorry some of the measurements are strange- I did my best to approximate but in reality no measuring instruments were used in the process).


  1. Kayla Kayla Kayla. What a great description of your anniversary (Happy First!), life as a Senegalese wife, and the great extended family you have there in Dakar. I must say I was overwhelmed by the complexity of that recipe! 4 pages. Holy Cow. Now that Karen has read the conditions, I look forward to here being a good Senegalese Wife too (she's already a perfect Norwegian-American wife ;-) ). But strong sons? Don't think that's going to happen, but of course, we know the genetics of that one puts the blame all on me. - Love, Dad :-)

  2. Wonderful Kayla. I never even thought to ask what is expected of you as Doudou's wife there in Senegal. This does not look like an easy recipe. Congratulations for accomplishing it, with help. Now you know how to make it and you'll have to keep practicing!