Take a guess what’s in the bag.
If the title of this post clued you in, you probably guessed peanut butter and honey. But did you guess that this is local-I-can-taste-the-sand peanut butter and I-can-see-the-comb honey?
Every Tuesday and Thursday there are vendors outside the international school in our neighborhood. In general their wares are targeted very specifically to the parents of the students, so you see a man with a huge plastic bag of used Crocs in all styles, sizes and colors.
Next to him is a woman selling pints of strawberries for 1,000cfa ($2). These aren’t your bright, identical US strawberries though. They’re dark red with lots of rough seeds and lumpy shape, but an amazing depth of flavor you don’t often get in the US.
One lady has vegetables for the toubab palate: butternut squash, broccoli and sweet corn. A couple weeks ago she was out of broccoli when I asked for it. She whipped out her cell phone to call her husband in the field and ask if he could cut some before coming home. She made me promise to come by to get it the following day, and I did. Somehow paying 2,500cfa ($5) for a small head of broccoli is more palatable when you know it was still attached to the soil less than 24 hours ago.
The baked goods vendor is pretty famous in toubab circles. She makes banana bread muffins, peanut butter cookies, granola and cinnamon-raisin bagels. Again, you don’t get a perfectly shaped bagel with smooth browned surface. You get a smallish piece of dough that was undeniably shaped by hand and has the chewiness and taste of home-baked goodness. And for about $7, you can get 12 of them.
The reason I walked down to this mini-market, held at the hottest time of day, was for her peanut butter and her honey. Forget JIF with its plastic jar and tear-off lid sealing in the chemically enhanced freshness. This is the real deal. Peanuts roasted in hot sand (some of which clings to the peanuts, giving them a special flavor from Senegal – literally) are pounded and crushed and beaten into submission in the form of a thick, gluey paste. I’ll admit that it’s an acquired taste, but I have totally acquired it. I’m hooked.
And the fact that she pours the paste into ‘upcycled’ old mayonnaise jars after scrubbing the labels off is no longer terrifying, but rather charming.
The same goes for the old liquor bottle that now holds my honey.