Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Primus, No Pineapple

We had a big laugh during our long road trip between Buta and Aketi, stopping in Dulia to eat only to discover that the WHOLE town had nothing but bananas, peanuts, and goat meat.

Of course, we had no idea about the limitations in Aketi!

I’ve mentioned before that Aketi isn’t able to import a lot of items -- everything that comes from outside must come by road -- that windy, nearly impenetrable route that comes in here and brings us lovely things (like Primus!)

That does mean though, that if no one in the town has harvested something one week, or no one has made it here via bike, that sometimes, there is just NOT anyone in the town selling what we want!!

Tonight, we had made plans to have a little party, celebrating our return from the forest with a BIG splurge - 2 Primuses for each of us to go with our evening Poondoo.

But despite searching everywhere in Aketi, Olivier cannot find a single Primus. In THE WHOLE TOWN of Aketi!! The madness! The rain! The Congo!!!

I thought people might be interested in our standard fare here, so these are the options we typically have to choose from, most of them with rice.

Maboke - a squash sort of like a pumpkin that’s tasty!

Poondoo - a mashed spinach-like leaf, ground up in a sauce that’s sort creamed spinach or saag paneer.

Beans - goes without saying

Fumbwa - hard to find usually -- the market doesn’t always have it - it’s a coarser leaf like poondoo but it’s a lot more fibrous and Cleve is convinced it’s full of protein.

Tomato & Mabenge Soup - this is sort of an American dish Cleve taught Dido how to make - using Tomato Paste from a can and oil. Mabenge is like plantains - big semi-sweet bananas.

Spaghetti - it took forever for Dido to get the sauce and the noodles right -- spaghetti is a pricey dish for us because each pack of the dry noodles costs $2! Originally Dido would mix it all together in sort of a vomitous mash, but now he makes the noodles white and lovely and the sauce is tasty too!

Mbika - A seed that is ground up and cooked a bit like soy-- tastes delicious but makes you feel AWFUL afterwards. We think it tears up your stomach!

Eggplant - chopped and mashed and generally tasteless.

The funniness is that standard things, like potatoes, are just absent here!

Other things like pineapples and mushrooms are sometimes available, but require a good deal of fineagling to procure.

After my time in Eastern Congo, where the veggies were as BIG as babies’ heads, it does seem funny to see the teeny baby onions and tomatoes here, or notice the reliance on tomato paste! Even the things like eggplants are tiny, and things I took for granted in Eastern Congo like avocados and mangoes are just not here at all!

Perhaps we can find some new exciting recipes while we’re here! Adam is eating meat about once a week when we can afford it, but for vegetarians (me) or vegans (Cleve), getting protein is quite difficult. We end up garnishing most of our dishes with roasted and fresh peanuts.

And hopefully, we’ll get more pineapples as they come into season! It’s really quite a treat!

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