Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lunch in my Hut

A few weeks ago I was working over at the Health Center, things went long, and I came home late for lunch. This happens occasionally, and when it does whoever cooked lunch (my host moms take turns, work-sharing is one of the big perks of the polygamous lifestyle) saves me a bowl of rice with peanut sauce (nine out of ten times lunch is rice with peanut sauce) and I eat it in my hut.
I always eat with a spoon. Most people on my compound eat with their right hands, but my host father, a few of the older girls, a few of the older boys, and I all eat with spoons. They switch back and forth sometimes but I've been told that "Americans eat with spoons, and you're American. Also you don't know how." Which is true, I've tried in other villages; it's a terrible mess, the sauce is too hot on my fingers and it feels awkward. So, my lunch comes in a bowl, with a spoon for me. Inside is more than enough rice and a smaller bowl of sauce.


According to good Senegalese mealtime manners, I portion out some of the rice, so as not to "ruin" it by getting sauce all over it, fluff up the remaining rice, swirl the sauce around, and pour it, all with my right hand only. In Senegal, as in many parts of the world, the left hand is the toilet hand  and is therefore considered unclean. (People here use water instead of toilet paper, kind of like a do-it-yourself-bidet, but that's another post for another time.)

In any case, after I pour the sauce I eat the rice, eating from the part of the bowl that's directly in front of me and only mixing one bite at a time. I add rice and sauce if I finish my first portion and am still hungry. Pretty often I've already been fed at the Health Center, but my host moms are good cooks and it's nice of them to save me food, so I eat enough to be polite, even if I'm not very hungry.


After I'm done I put the sauce bowl in the bigger bowl and cover it with the lid and the nice sauce-free extra rice and bring it back to one of the two kitchen huts. Sometimes one of the older kids will eat the leftovers as an afternoon snack, and sometimes they'll feed it to one of the little kids as a pre-dinner snack.

And that's lunch in my hut.


  1. Hi LaRocha,

    Greetings from the Peace Corps' Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services! Thank you for your participation in the Third Goal through your cross-cultural blog. We love your detailed description of how to eat lunch in Senegal. The directions along with the step-by-step photos would help anyone get up to speed quickly! Also, I'm always impressed at how similar certain aspects of everyday life are in countries thousands of miles apart. I was a Volunteer in Guatemala, and my host family used almost that identical metal plate with the flowers and chipped edges.

    Thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you! I'm happy to hear that you're enjoying the blog, and to hear that those enamel bowls have made it out to every corner of the world.

    I hope all is well at the Third Goal Office!


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