14 November 2011

Home-cooked meals in Tsevie, part 2.

The party at Tammy's led to several lunch and dinner invitations, as each family at the party wanted us to come over to their homes. So Thursday mid-day, Thursday evening, and Friday mid-day we were lucky to enjoy home-cooked meals. We learned that it is customary to take gifts when you visit. We had brought packages of candy and some T-shirts from the US (under Tammy's advice) and we gave them to our lunch and dinner hosts.

Lunch at Tammy's host family's home

On Thursday, lunch was at her host family's. (Her "host family" is where she stayed during her first two months in Togo.) It was "fatty rice" - rice with some veggies and a lot of palm oil; it's another of Tammy's favorites. It was good. The family served us the meal, then left the room. This Togoese custom shows respect for your guests, according to Tammy. We did not stay long - another custom, she said, is not to linger after a meal. Often, people in Togo rest or sleep in the early afternoon when it is very hot.

Two piles of corn drying in the courtyard of the host family. One pile is corn still on the cob, one is corn off the cob.

A lizard on the corn.

More lizards!

Dinner at Tammy's local host family

For dinner we were invited to Tammy's "local host family" - this is the family that lives a couple doors down from her and that the Peace Corps designates to "watch over" Tammy. In mid-afternoon, it poured, and I mean POURED. Big huge drops of rain. Tammy had some errands to do; she waited until the rain stopped, then went out on her bike. She was gone a long time, and while she was out it rained some more. When she got back, dripping wet, she said that she had a flat tire and had to have it fixed. Okay, we are not too late to get to our dinner date. Then the power went out. Oh, this is interesting.

The streets don't have streetlights anyway, so it's no big deal. Everyone seems to have cell phones with flashlights on them. So we walked in the dark down the street, trying to avoid the red muddy goo in the streets.

The local host family had nice furniture, computers, and a digital camera, but no indoor plumbing. They turned on their (noisy) generator so we could have some indoor lights. They served us fresh fish in a tomato-vegetable sauce over rice. I kept telling them that I just wanted a little because of my tummy, but they wanted to feed me a lot. I felt bad because I just couldn't finish it - although the food was very tasty!

The father asked us how long we were staying in Tsevie, and when we said only 4 days, he said: "Why aren't you staying a month?" Long visits are common in Togo - Americans are always in a hurry.

We left soon after we finished dinner, and when we got back to Tammy's we found that the power was on. Yea!

Lunch at Tammy's friend's place

On Friday we had lunch at the home of a woman that Tammy calls her "counterpart". This is a woman who has a small business in Togo, and she helps Tammy with her Peace Corps work. We were joined for lunch by her daughter and grandson, and Tammy's best (local) friend in Tsevie.

This meal excellent. The woman had ordered a special fresh fish from Lome, and had cooked it both grilled over a fire and simmered in a broth. The fish tasted a lot like high-grade tuna, meaty and flavorful.

Tammy ate a lot of this fish, as she gets so protein-deprived in Togo, a condition perhaps exacerbated by her recent marathon. I was impressed with the great fresh salsa that accompanied the fish. It was an uncooked mixture of sliced tomatoes, onions, and seasonings. I could have eaten a big bowl of that! A bottle of sotobe made the rounds.

The fish and the salsa. I think the round balls in the other bowl are a fermented corn mixture.

Another photo of the lunch.

The Friday lunch group.

The Friday lunch group.

The Friday lunch group.

The Friday lunch group.

Final comments on foods

Meals in Togo are generally one dish served with rice or another starch. The meals have only one course - not like our meals of salad, main dish, then dessert. They don't serve bread with the meal, even when there is a good sauce to dip it in. They do not serve desserts. We did see some sweet cakes sold on the streets, but these were not served after dinner.

We were served fruits after some of the meals. They had a type of citrus fruit, melons, bananas, and pineapple. The pineapples were very sweet and a little different than the ones we get here in the US.

What they don't have in Togo are milk products. No cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream . . . none of that. They don't eat a lot of meat. They have lots of goats, but we didn't try goat meat. There aren't things like big crunchy crackers in Togo. Since we are used to these food items, we sort of missed them. But we were happy to find that they do have good food, if you are lucky enough to be invited into their homes, or have a Tammy to cook for you.

Next: Our visit to the village.


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