Bonjour from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, also known (in English) as the Ivory Coast. After gaining its independence from France in 1960, this West African nation became one of the region’s ecomonic success stories under the lengthy presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. During the last twenty years, however, Côte d’Ivoire has been rocked by several civil wars and widespread poverty. We were therefore excited to learn not only about the country’s food and culture but also about the steps it has taken to become a prosperous and peaceful nation once again.
We started our day with a breakfast drawn from a number of Ivoirian-related traditions. As a former colony of France, croissants and baguettes seem to have remained popular breakfast items, at least in certain hotels. We chose to eat chocolate croissants because the country is also a major producer of cocoa beans. I also added an Ivoirian dessert recipe for melon fingers, or sliced melon topped with slices of lime. Finally, I brewed us some lemongrass tea, which also appears to be a local favorite.
After breakfast, Jess and I watched a short video from the Financial Times that detailed how the Côte d’Ivoire has started to make a comeback as the economic hub of West Africa following a recent civil war:
We normally start our documentary coverage with an exciting episode of Geography Now, but sadly the show’s host had saved this country for the letter “I” instead of the letter “C.” Like us, he’s still only partway through the alphabet.
In the middle of the morning, Jess began to prepare a complex and delicious dish of sauce claire et fufu, for which she substituted some tofu for the fish in the recipe. While the World Cookbook describes this coastal dish as appropriate for an evening meal, we certainly enjoyed it for lunch:
Later in the afternoon, we watched a short film from the Economist that introduced us to the practice of small-scale “artisinal” gold mining that has become popular in some parts of the country. With a lucky discovery of gold, a poor Ivoirian can earn more than he or she would hope to make in four or five years of cocoa farming.
I tried out a couple of Ivoirian recipes for dinner. First was an eggy dish of mashed sweet potatoes and onions, which somewhat resembled the filling of an American pumpkin pie.
For our second (dessert?) course, we had a cold avocado and lime soup from the capital city of Abidjan called soupe d’avocat Abidjanaise. We topped it off with some slices of lime and a few squirts of hot sauce, as is tradition.
After dinner on Saturday, we watched a 2000 film from the Côte d’Ivoire called Adanggaman, a historical dramatization about some innocent Ivoirian villagers and the tyrant king who sold them into slavery. You can watch a trailer for the film (without any subtitles, unfortunately) here on vimeo.
On Sunday morning, after another delicious breakfast of choclate croissants, baguette, and melon fingers, we watched an hour-long documentary about Côte d’Ivoire’s diverse religious customs called The Bridge of the Spirits. You can see the whole film yourself below:
We ate more of Jess’s sauce claire and fufu for lunch, which hit the spot. Côte d’Ivoire has been in the news a bit lately, not always for good reasons. We were sad to learn that several Ivoirian men had been attacked after they expressed solidarity with the victims of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, but were happy to read that a professor at the country’s Bouake University had helped one of his students to concentrate on her studies by scooping up her crying baby (traditionally viewed as womens’ work) and carrying it around the classroom on his back.
At dinner, we reversed the order of the courses from last night, starting with the chilled avocado soup and then proceeding to the tasty sweet potato casserole. All in all, we had a warm and pleasant weekend exploring some of the traditions and culinary delights that have made Côte d’Ivoire the vibrant nation it is today. Au revoir!