Bonjour from the Comoros! Comoros is comprised of three islands off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean. As you may have already guessed, it was once a French colony. Like many of France’s former African colonies, it has struggled with political instability since gaining independence. We were curious, though, to learn what makes Comoros unique.
Derek woke up early on Saturday morning to prepare breakfast. We couldn’t find too much information on what Comorians ate for their morning meal, except The World Cookbook, which reports that “Breakfast may be nothing more than supu, a light, oily beef soup, or chapattis, or bread with tea.” Derek found a recipe for a Comorian bread called mardouf, and decided to add some fried green plantains and cut fresh mango to round out the meal. The bread was especially nice and fluffy, probably thanks to the generous amounts of butter that went into the dough!
After breakfast, I made a hot pepper sauce called poutou, which is served as a accompaniment at most meals. I had forgotten that the recipe advised letting the flavors blend for 24 hours before serving, but at least I remembered to make this relatively early on Saturday.
We watched two videos afterwards. The first video was by the Comoros’ ministry of tourism, encouraging investment in Comoros. While the images of the island were quite lovely, it was hard not to feel skeptical about the video’s objectivity. We found the second video, the ever dependable Geography Now!, much more informative:
For lunch, I made us baguette sandwiches with sliced hard-boiled egg, tomato and cucumber. I don’t know too much about the background of this sandwich. We’ve seen the baguette in other French African countries (last time in Chad), though, and bloggers who have visited Comoros mention eating this type of sandwich, so I guess it’s pretty legit, though maybe not entirely traditional.
Although it’s feeling like spring in New England again, lately Derek and I have both felt pretty tired on the weekends, and not terribly motivated to get out and about. I’m guessing it’s the end of spring semester fatigue. Saturday was another one of those days, and we lazed about most of the afternoon, enjoying the sun coming in through the windows.
We did recover some energy by the late afternoon, and I set to work on dinner. Since Comoros is an island nation, it’s no surprise that seafood is a major part of its cuisine. I wanted to recognize this in our globetrotting weekend, but I don’t eat fish. The World Cookbook had a recipe for riz poisson, or rice and fish, in which some fish fillets were pan-fried, and then mixed into a stew with rice, spices and vegetables. I found another recipe for preparing tofu like a fish fillet, and decided I’d try to use that to make a vegetarian-friendly version of riz poisson. We had this with some of the poutou, though the riz was spicy enough on its own.
In the evening, we watched a CNN Africa piece on vanilla production in the Comoros, and a peek at the country’s national dish, langouste a la vanille, lobster in vanilla sauce. (I’m pretty sure a vegetarian version of that isn’t possible!) We also watched a BBC News video that focuses on one of the Comoro Islands, Anjouan.
On Sunday morning Derek made another half batch of mardouf, which were just as flaky and tasty as the day before. We also had more mango and plantains leftover from the previous morning, and this time we had some poutou with the plantains.
Derek had decided to make two dishes for lunch, and had to start preparing them midway through the morning, a gratin made from cooked, mashed papaya and topped with cheese, and pigeon peas cooked in coconut milk. I initially had my doubts about eating cooked papaya as a savory dish, but of the two dishes, I liked it best. The papaya tasted kind of like cooked, mashed squash.
The weather was too nice to idle another afternoon away in the apartment, so we went for a long walk. We returned home for dinner, and had more of the riz poisson from the night before. Afterwards, we watched our final Comoros-related video, another CNN Africa piece, this one on the large, lavish weddings (“grand mariage“) that take place in the Comoros. Like large weddings in many cultures, the Comorian grand mariage is an indicator of social status, but with an additional twist: men cannot take part in community politics if they haven’t had one of these lavish celebrations that last for days. I’m grateful that a grand mariage is not a requirement for success in American society, and that Derek and I were able to have a small, low-key wedding that suited our personalities much better!
Merci beauconp, Comoros! We’ve enjoyed this weekend of getting to know your islands and culture. Next up, we’re headed back to mainland Africa!