This morning when I came downstairs and stumbled into the kitchen, our house-helper Elisa was pulling large plastic bottles out of a bag. They were filled with what looked pale mud.
Then I remembered: ngalax.
On the Muslim holiday Tabaski, which celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, each family buys and kills a ram. One third of the meat they keep, one third is given to friends and one third is given to the poor.
But it’s not just the Muslims who share their celebrations. On Good Friday, the Senegalese Catholics – about 5% of the population – make a drink called ngalax to share with their friends and neighbors.
So that’s why, today, Elisa brought all those big bottles of ngalax. Some are for us, and some are for her friends in the neighborhood.
Of course, I had a bijillion questions.
She said she woke up at 4am to start making the ngalax. It’s a looong process with an equally looong list of ingredients.
2 cups steamed karaw (millet couscous)
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups of baobab fruit, soaked then strained leaving only juice
1-2 cups peanut butter (smooth, natural, unsweetened)
2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of nutmeg
one handful of raisins
Basically what you’ve got is peanut butter, sugar, couscous, tropical fruit juice that looks like white sludge and a bunch of yummy flavorings. Once it’s all prepared and mixed together, you pour it up into bottles and chill it.
So today we remembered Good Friday with peanut butter. And on Sunday we’ll celebrate that, through Christ, even ‘goobers’ like us are forgiven!