Burkina Faso

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Bonjour! The weekend of September 19–20 took us to Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African nation located between six other countries—including Mali and Benin, which we’d visited in the past. While all three countries were once part of the French empire, we were excited to learn what makes Burkina Faso special.

For breakfast on Saturday morning, I stirred up some bouillie de mil, or millet gruel. Reading the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, Jess had discovered that this gruel is the most common breakfast item amongst native burkinabé (citizens of Burkina Faso). I even found a video—complete with creepy music—that shows a woman mixing bouillie in the capital city of Ouagadougou:

To make our own millet gruel, I followed another video from nearby Senegal that explained the basic recipe step by step. Here’s the result:

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After a couple of bites, the reason why millet hasn’t done very well in the worldwide grain popularity contest became clear. The taste is bitter, even with plenty of sugar sprinkled on top.

Later that morning, I walked to the trader’s to purchase some of the globetrotting ingredients that you can see in the photo at the top of this post. The chalkboard globe, however, was a very clever birthday gift to Jess from her friend Janice.

For lunch, Jess spent much of the morning cooking two popular dishes from Burkina Faso: , which is a stiff porridge made from sorghum and millet flour, and a gumbo stew recipe (sans meat) from our Extending the Table international cookbook:

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To learn more about the culture and history of Burkina Faso, we then watched a short documentary about the country’s annual film festival, which draws entries from all over the continent:

I made an enormous batch of riz gras (“fat rice”) for dinner, which is sort of like rice pilaf. To make the savory broth in which to cook the rice, however, the recipe instructed me to cook a big pot of cabbage, eggplant, onions, peppers, and other vegetables. (It also called for meat, but once again we skipped it.) At any rate, this was really like making two dishes in one: the rice and the vegetables. Here’s the result:

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After dinner, and following an evening stroll to the Back Bay for some out-of-place Italian gelato, we watched an investigative report on the 2014 uprising against the country’s longtime dictator entitled Burkina Faso: Revolution.

Sunday brought more of the questionable millet gruel for breakfast, followed by some of Jess’s tasty  and gumbo for lunch. An afternoon outing to the Boston Local Food Festival and the new Boston Public Market didn’t turn up any activities related to Burkina Faso—though we did enjoy some fresh apple cider donuts!

We had more riz gras for dinner, though I’m not sure that I prepared it properly because the rice was far too mushy. That evening, we watched Rêves de Poussière (“Dreams of Dust”), a 2006 French motion picture filmed in Burkina Faso:

The film tells the story of a Nigerian farmer who journeys to Burkina Faso to work in a dangerous gold mine. Eventually, he uses his earnings to help a young girl and her mother find a better life.

All in all, our weekend exploration of Burkina Faso was relatively modest, but it solidified our knowledge of francophone West Africa. Au revoir!

–Derek

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