Bonjour from the Congo! Bonjour from the Congo, again! In case you did not know, Africa is home to both the Republic of the Congo and its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To some extent, these independent countries each have their own histories and cultures. There’s not much in Boston that relates to either of them, however, so we decided to take the unprecedented step of visiting two destinations in the very same weekend. Allons-y!
Having read that wealthier Congolese enjoy bread or other baked goods for breakfast (and that unfortunately, many others simply go without) we started our day with a toasted baguette and another Congolese favorite: coffee. I also threw in some fried eggs for a little protein, though I am not sure that that was entirely authentic.
The two Congos owe their modern existence to the fact that the Republic of Congo was once a colony of France and the Democratic Republic of Congo was once a colony of Belgium. In reality, although most of their citizens can speak French, each country represents dozens of traditional languages and ethnic groups. Before going any further, we watched back-to-back episodes of Geography Now to learn more about what makes each country unique:
I tried to keep everything balanced by preparing one dish from each Congo for lunch. From the Democratic Republic of the Congo I made this recipe for loso na madesu, or red beans and rice served with plantains. From the Republic of the Congo I made a recipe from the World Cookbook for kale, eggplant, and white beans called sake madesu. Each madesu had its own flavor, and together they hit the spot.
After lunch, we watched a videographic from the Economist about the recent warfare in the Democratic Republic, followed by a longer documentary from Vice about the country’s rebel groups and conflict minerals:
For dinner, I fried some tofu “fish” and onions in tomato sauce, Congolese-style, while Jess prepared a recipe for mushroom and lemon sauce from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We served these dishes with more rice:
We watched a 2008 DVD called Children of Congo: From War to Witches in the evening, which documented how many poor families from the Democratic Republic have started to blame their misfortune on their unwanted children. Once accused of witchcraft, the children can be thrown out of the home and into the streets.
Several of the weekend’s videos were difficult to watch—reminders that the larger of the two Congos is among both the poorest and most dangerous countries on the planet.
The next morning, we shared another breakfast of a toasted baguette, eggs, and coffee.
To balance out some of yesterday’s grim human-centric documentaries, we watched the third episode of Sir David Attenborough’s Africa miniseries, which showcases the many plants and animals who live in the Congolese jungle. Here is a trailer for the entire series (not just the Congo episode):
Having spent the weekend learning about the foods, cultures, and animals (real and imaginary) along both sides of the mighty Congo River, we were proud to declare our unusual 2-in-1 globetrotting adventure to have been a success. Until next time, au revoir!