The Gambia

Salaam aleikum! Peace be upon you! This weekend finds us in the smallest country in mainland Africa, The Gambia.

(Art by Derek)

We began Saturday with a modified version of churra gerte, a traditional Gambian porridge made with boiled ground peanuts and rice. Derek is allergic to peanuts, but since sunflower seed butter is somewhat similar to peanut butter, I figured I could try making the porridge recipe with ground sunflower seeds instead. The porridge was bland on its own, but the taste improved with a few heaping spoonfuls of condensed milk.

After our filling breakfast, we went grocery shopping for other ingredients we’d need for the weekend. When we came back, we watched Geography Now to get an introduction to The Gambia. As you can see in the still frame below, the country is a rather unusual shape. Barby explains the reasoning behind this, along with other useful facts about Gambian politics and culture.

Barby also educated us on the Gambian flag, in a separate video.

Derek mixed up some African ginger beer (non-alcoholic) to chill in the fridge before he began making lunch, jollof rice and a West African stew of black eyed peas and plantain.

After lunch, we watched an Al Jazeera video from this past January about the transition of power from the country’s former president, Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, to its newly elected president, Adama Barrow. Jammeh had lost the December 2016 national election to Barrow, and initially conceded the election–but then backtracked days later to say that he would not accept the election results. Several West African countries staged a military intervention to force Jammeh to step down. He eventually stepped down in January, and went into exile to Equatorial Guinea.

Yassa chicken is a popular dish in both The Gambia and Senegal, and luckily I found vegetarian-friendly versions of the dish online. I followed this particular recipe, though I used some seitan I had made earlier in place of tofu. We ate the yassa seitan with cooked millet.

For dessert, Derek made thiacry, a sweet millet dish. The recipe is from the chef of Teranga, a Senegalese restaurant Derek and I went to a few years ago when we still lived in Boston. (Since Senegal and The Gambia are neighbors, their cuisines are very similar.) We didn’t try the thiacry when we dined at Teranga so we don’t have a point of comparison, but Derek’s version was quite good.

We ate the thiacry while watching The Mirror Boy, a Nollywood (Nigerian Hollywood) movie set primarily in The Gambia. The Mirror Boy follows an African British boy who unwillingly moves from London to The Gambia with his mother (who is from The Gambia), and ends up going on a mystical journey. Many of the characters felt like caricatures rather than fully fleshed out people, but the movies was still fairly enjoyable. Here’s the trailer:

Sunday began with some more churra gerte with condensed milk. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and go out for an early bike ride around Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and when we returned home, we were happy to have leftover jollof rice and black eyed peas for lunch. The rest of the ginger beer was a treat, too.

After lunch, we looked for more information on how things are in Gambia since its new president took office. We couldn’t locate any substantive videos, but we did find a Slate article detailing how Jammeh’s exit has been detrimental to at least some Gambians, particularly those who supported him.

We took it easy in the afternoon, and had some thiacry as a snack. When it was time for dinner, we had some more yassa seitan and millet.

Derek and I were pleasantly surprised by the amount of things we found for this weekend, considering that The Gambia is such a small country. Now that we’re better acquainted with The Gambia, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on what happens as the new president gets more acclimated in his role. Hopefully he’s not at all like the current American president.

Next time, we’re headed for Georgia–that is, the country in the Caucasus region, not the state in the American South. See you there!

– Jess

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