Thursday, June 14, 2012

American Gosi

Most evenings one of my host sisters or host moms will make gosi, a kind of rice porridge, to feed all the little kids (and me, sometimes) before dinner, since they often fall asleep early. I've had really bland, unappealing gosi at other people's houses, usually for breakfast, but the stuff that my host family makes is really good, almost like African rice pudding. 

The bland kind is thin and saline, made with just rice, water, and salt, and people usually eat it when they don't have enough money to add anything else. My host family is well-off enough to be able to make good, nutritious gosi, which is nice for me and great for the kids. My host sisters like to make gosi tiga, which is sweetened rice porridge with ground peanuts. The peanuts they use aren't roasted, so the flavor is mild, very unlike the roasted peanut buttery taste we're used to with American peanuts. The peanut meal thickens the porridge, giving it a rich, slightly nutty taste, as well as a big protein boost. My host family also likes to add kosam, a yogurt-ish sour milk, or a big scoop of powdered milk if they have some on hand to make it heartier and to add vitamins and protein; my host sister Mariama Kesso (whose daughter Fatou is the adorable chubby baby is so many of my photos) is fond of telling me that milk is a complete food, and that it's good for kids and mothers. 

So, my host sisters kept giving me these wonderful warm mugs of gost tiga in the evenings and I decided that I should try to make an Americanized version, something akin to rice pudding. I bought some rice, sugar, powdered milk, and brought raisins, vanilla sugar, and cinnamon in from the toubab store in Kédougou and told Kesso that I wanted help making American gosi . She thought that this was funny (watching me cook is endlessly entertaining) and everyone was curious - there are so many people on my compound (around 30 at last count) that I've never really tried to cook anything for everyone before. We boiled the water and added all the ingredients, let it simmer, and it thickened up nicely. Even though they made fun of the raisins a little (someone said they looked like "little goat poops") they liked it and ate it all. Raisins aren't available in my village and there doesn't seem to be a Pular word for them, so people kept calling them "little dates," which is pretty close. The Senegalese are known for having a big sweet-tooth and tend to really love dates, especially during Ramadan, since they're said to have been one of the Prophet's favorite foods. It went over really well, and made me want to cook more often. 

I also tried out adding a couple packets of Maple & Spice instant oatmeal to another batch of American gosi , but people were not into that. They were really polite about it, but apparently the maple flavor tasted weird and savory to them, like I'd added bullion or something. I was more than happy to keep that bowl for my breakfast, but it made me think about acquired tastes, and how strange it must be to try a new taste when you've only ever eaten from a very limited range of flavors.

Host sisters Kesso and Diabou
It was fun to cook with Kesso, and nice to share something American with my Senegalese family -- I told them that sometimes in America my mom and my grandma make rice pudding/American gosi, and they really liked that they were eating something that my family in America also eats. I think that I might get more ambitious and try making American-style spaghetti one of these days. It would be a mess to try to eat with a spoon, but since spaghetti noodle and onion sauce sandwiches are an accepted breakfast food I'm pretty sure that everyone would like it well enough. 

1 comment:

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