Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Isa, you no eat."

     Since the beginning of August, the start of Ramadan, my family has tried to fatten me as if I were a turkey they were preparing for Thanksgiving.  Every morning, I am fed a loaf of bread that is at least a foot long.  It usually contains one of four things: mayonaise, butter, fried eggs, or pasta with potatoes.  Butter and mayo are my least favorite fillings, but the other two are pretty darn good.
Starch overload!
     At lunch, a food bowl is prepared by a cook that is paid by the Peace Corps.  This is typicaly the best meal of the day and when I eat the most.  Casey and I first ate like the Gambians by using our hands, but we quickly grew tired of being a mess and reverted back to using spoons.  Some of my favorite lunch dishes include: Benechin (a spicy rice dish), Domada (a peanut sauce over rice), and Chicken Yassa (a oniony tangy sauce served over noodles or I'm sure you can guess... rice).
Chicken Yassa 
     While I'm eating my weight in rice, my family is fasting.  They wake up at 5 a.m. to eat breakfast and don't eat or drink again until the sun goes down.  7:40ish is when they will break their fast.  Although I'm not fasting this year, (I feel as though leaving America, my family and friends was enough of a statement of my love for God for 1 year) I am still served as though I haven't eaten since 5. 

     First, I'm given half a loaf of bread with one of the stuffings I mentioned earlier along with a cup of tea that is loaded with so much sugar that my tooth is now "paining me."  It isn't rare for mangoes to be served with the break of the fast, which would almost make a complete meal in my world, but definitely not in the Gambian realm of things.  An hour later, I'm served a bowl full of rice that comes with a variety of sauces (the tastiest is an onion sauce, that my family doesn't seem to have a name for.)

     It is standard that I will eat exactly half of my bowl and then take it back out for my family to finish.  As I walk out the bowl is covered, and I'm automatically greeted by, "Isa, you no eat!"  I say, "Yes, I did eat.  Look!"  They uncover the bowl, shake their heads in disapproval and again say, "Isa, you no eat."  A hint of frustration overcomes me, and my Gambian English comes out, "I eat," or "I do eat," spills out of my mouth.  I puff out my stomach to make the biggest food baby possible.  This makes them laugh, and they give in by accepting my leftovers.  I make my way to my room saying good night to all.  Nema tells me to sleep well, and I tell her sweet dreams, even though I know she doesn't understand the word dream, yet.  I cover my bed with my princess like mosquito net, and go to sleep with my food baby to wake up and go through the ritual once more.

1 comment:

  1. You really brought a smile to my face with this entry. I've never heard the term "food baby" before. Love it. I'm wondering though, how is the butter and mayo kept fresh?
    My understanding is that Ramadan started on Aug. 1 and the last day is Aug. 29th. That is a L O N G time! Then also add the difficulty that it is now occurring during the hot summer months and will be for several years more in the future. The daylight hours are long. That is a long time to wait to eat and particularly to wait to drink.

    Wishing YOU sweet dreams,