Thiof dinner with my super thiof! Thiof is a very prized local fish. And to say your husband is a ‘super thiof’ means you have a good catch.

We’re really bad when it comes to celebrating romantic events like Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, our other anniversary or, um, even our tenth anniversary that kind of just slipped by. The good news is that we’re both really bad at it and neither of us gets upset if these big moments pass without chocolates or flowers.

Maman Awa Dione’s roadside grill

But I got inspired this Valentine’s Day. And I mean that literally. It was about 7am on Valentine’s Day when the idea struck. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across a photo of a fish grilling over hot coals and the caption said it was at a little roadside spot a couple miles away. Bingo. That way we could skip the overcrowded restaurants with their special fixed menus and slow service and just get some good food in a relaxed atmosphere. (And maybe even make it to bed early! That’s a great gift for parents of two little ones who like to beat the sun at waking up.)

All I had to do now was secure a babysitter (check) and convince Cheikh that he really could just wear jeans and a t-shirt for this surprise outing (more challenging check). We hopped in the car and I told him to head to Almadies.

In her kitchen

Along the ocean at the very westernmost tip of Africa, there’s a strip of little stands and restaurants selling seafood and rice dishes, but apparently Maman Awa Dione’s grill is pretty well known among them because we found it after asking just one person. And we found Maman Awa as well, standing in the open-air kitchen behind a row of condiment bottles stabbing gigantic shrimp on a skewer.

Merry Valentine's Day!
Merry Valentine’s Day!
Aw, our thiof are kissing. And there were even tie-dyed hearts (well, wonky circles) on our tablecloth.

The evening was perfect.

Grilled whole thiof with attieke (fermented cassava) and aloco (fried plantain bananas). But it was better than just the good food. It felt like the good old days of us in Dakar, sitting at wooden tables in a tiny little restaurant that was open on two sides and decorated with old calendars and not just one but TWO little artificial Christmas trees with tinsel garland. Apparently we chose a prime table too – the one next to the wall outlet where people came to charge their cell phones. Score. (And Djibril, you have another text message.)

Unsuccessful selfie showing the phone charging above us.
Maman Awa in her kitchen. One side opens to the street and one side to the restaurant.

We laughed that all that was missing to complete the evening was a woman selling roses tableside, but… even better! During the course of our dinner a guy came by our table selling phone accessories, a woman selling beaded jewelry, a guy selling butterfly wing art, a guy selling soccer jerseys, a guy selling wooden instruments and another woman selling jewelry because I bought a little something (okay, three little somethings) from the first one.

Bargaining for bijoux spread on our table while waiting for dinner to be grilled. And our box of Kleenex/napkins.
A little mood music. He sang a song called ‘Bon appétit!’. Those were the lyrics AND the title.

Happy Valentine’s Day, sama super thiof!