Balao! Our second globetrot of the new year brought us from the West African archipelago of Cabo Verde to a republic located in Central Africa. Its name? Why, the Central African Republic, of course! While New England boasts one of the largest communities of immigrants from Cabo Verde in the world, we didn’t have similar luck with the CAR. As you will see, we put our globetrotting skills to work nonetheless and learned as much as we could from afar.
Like many African countries, the CAR has retained the language of its former colonial power (in this case, France) as an official language. Unlike many of its neighbors, however, the republic has also given an indigenous language official status: Mongho, the language in which I greeted you above.
For breakfast on Saturday, Jess prepared a Central African recipe for bouiller, a sweet rice porridge, which she had discovered online in The World Cookbook. She substituted sunflower butter for peanut butter because of my peanut allergy, and it tasted great!
Now that we had already encountered some delicious food from the C.A.R., we got a broader view of the country that afternoon with this short informational video from Geography Now.
For dinner, Jess cooked up two more recipes from the World Cookbook. One was a staple dish of mashed plantains called foutou banane, and the other was the region’s famous egusi sauce, which Jess made from ground dried pumpkin seeds. We consumed both dishes with our fingers, in the traditional African manner.
After dinner, we watched a charming film called Oka! (2011). This was the somewhat fictionalized account of the American ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has settled permanently amongst the Bayaka Pygmies in the Central African Republic. Here’s a preview:
A more factual documentary about Sarno called Song from the Forest was produced two years later (here’s the trailer) though we couldn’t get ahold of it.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed more of Jess’s sweet rice porridge for breakfast. This was later followed by a tasty (though non-African) brunch with my parents, who happened to be in the area.
In the afternoon, we learned more about the Central African Republic’s political instability and rampant corruption—which had been a theme in Oka!—with this documentary from Vice News:
The C.A.R. certainly wasn’t the first country we’ve visited to be overrun with violence and insecurity, and we’ve encountered the reporting of Vice News journalist Danny Gold everywhere from Bahrain to Belarus. The footage was disturbing nonetheless. Amidst all the delicious food and cultural activities, our globetrotting adventures also continue to remind us of how fortunate we are to live in a part of the world that is so peaceful and safe.
We started our dinner with the remainder of the avocado salad and also reheated some of the riz vert, now with the addition of some meatless meatballs in place of the mutton that the original recipe had included.
The Central African Republic does not have the most memorable name, and except for our enchanting introduction to the Bayaka people in Oka! its culture did not seem especially memorable either. That said, the C.A.R. gave us the chance to cook some interesting meals and left us hoping that a peaceful government will some day be able to protect the country’s diverse peoples as well as the ecologically rich forests in which they live.