My husband had been traveling for 10 days and 18 hours. Our babysitter had been scheduled to be here four days a week, but because of back-to-back holidays and illness, she had come only three days in the last three weeks. And Pape had discovered the unending joys of splashing his hands in the toilet bowl water, chewing on flip-flops and rubbing lotion on his belly then crawling around the dirty floors.

What? Reinforcements needed because of little ol’ me?

All this to say… I felt the need to call in some reinforcements to get some things under control. (This decision was confirmed by a Senegalese friend who told me my mom-ing was harder than hers because although she has four young kids, she also has her mom, aunts, sisters and nieces all living with her or nearby. After hearing her say that, I felt like much less of a mom-wimp.)

Anyway… my friends Diami and Véro know how to prepare some American foods but were wanting to learn more. Combine their desire to learn + my desire to stock my freezer with meals and voilà. Three women, one kitchen, five hours….aaaand go!

I wanted to teach them recipes that they could then make for the toubab families they work for and ideally also make at home for their families. One of the women who came over yesterday has an American-style stove/oven, but the other has what most Senegalese homes have – a big gas bottle with a burner on top. And we tried to limit ingredients to those available locally and as affordable as possible. So recipes that require expensive ingredients, baking or multiple burners were, um, put on the back burner.

I posed the following question on Facebook:

Here are some of the suggestions I got in response…

  • Fried chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes

These were great ideas, but I don’t fry much so felt a little out of my depth teaching these recipes. However, I do know that when my toubab friends taught fried okra in the village, it was a big hit, especially since okra is plentiful and cheap when it’s in season.

  • Zucchini bread

Quick breads are wonderful. The ingredients are available and affordable, the process is easy and many variations exist. (Of course, you do need an oven.) Cornbread was another really good suggestion, but my friends actually already knew how to make it.

  • Grits and eggs and shrimp and grits

These suggestions surprised me. I would never have thought of grits! We can’t get ‘real’ grits here, but polenta works well. I didn’t have any on hand, but this is definitely on my list for next time. Any other grits recipes to suggest?

  • Lasagna

This was a brilliant idea. There are many variations (meat, vegetarian, different cheeses…) and it’s appreciated by many cultures. So we made two versions, both using a simple white sauce and homemade marinara. One recipe had ground beef, grated carrot and grated zucchini and the second had ground beef and spinach. (Oh, and we made a third for our lunch!)

  • Spaghetti

Ding, ding, ding! Knowing we were going to be making the marinara and cooking ground beef for the lasagna, making up some spaghetti sauce was an easy step.

  • Chili and cinnamon rolls

I know these two don’t exactly go together! But they do in the sense that the recipes call for spices that aren’t often found in Senegalese kitchens. So we ‘back-burnered’ these.

  • Deconstructed cabbage rolls

This was my contribution to the recipe list. The ingredients include ‘ceeb vegetables’ such as cabbage, carrots, onions, hot peppers and tomatoes, and then rice and bouillon cubes, which are staples in Senegalese kitchens. (Here’s the recipe.)

  • French onion soup

This was a recipe that I’d never made, but they taught me!

Working on three lasagnas, 2 batches spaghetti sauce, 2 zucchini breads, 3 dishes of cabbage rolls, French onion soup… and some baby food.

Up next…
I’m thinking next time we’ll do chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese using the basic white sauce and adding in puréed butternut squash and spinach leaves (kind of like this), some grits recipes and maybe pancakes.

Unless you have other ideas…