Food.

December 9th, 2014 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

20140921_Mengong Cameroon Training Peace Corps_0247

A Peace Corps Medical Officer who has been working for Peace Corps Cameroon for the past more than 20 years said to the trainees, “If you are in Cameroon, you are blessed with food because you have variety of food.”  She is certainly right.  Cameroon has a wide variety of dishes due to colonization, learning techniques from Europeans, and geographical influences.   Within the first week after arriving in Cameroon, my host family fed me beignets, spaghetti omelette, fish with peanut sauce, bread with chocolate spread, sheep with carrots, green beans and fried plantains, avocados, and spaghetti with vegetables.

Beignets

Beignets

Breakfast in Cameroon can be either simple which means just beignets or bread with chocolate spread or a dinner-style meal such meat with vegetables or salad.  Beignets are like donuts and come in variety of types which includes plain beignets with crispy crust and beignets with soft crust and sugar coating.  They are traditionally made with palm oil, the most commonly used type of oil in Cameroon.  Cameroonians in fact make almost all of their dishes with palm oil.  Cameroonians also often eat beignets with beans.  The chocolate spread that is used to put on bread is similar to Nutella, the spread that Americans and Europeans both love.  The difference is that the chocolate spread that is primarily used in Cameroon is mixed with peanuts instead of hazelnut, and it still tastes incredibly delicious.  Children in fact will often have bread with the chocolate spread for lunch or snack after school in addition to breakfast.  From my observation, I noticed that many Cameroonians also love eating bread with just mayonnaise too for breakfast, lunch or snack, which can seem strange to many Americans as we normally eat mayonnaise only with other ingredients that is included in the bread such as vegetables, meat and cheese.

Chicken with fried plantains, green beans and carrots

Chicken with fried plantains, green beans and carrots

Pistachio Flan

Pistachio Flan

Lunch is usually very simple and light for many Cameroonians.  From what I’ve observed, most eat bread with chocolate spread, mayonnaise or butter or a bag of peanuts.

My host sister proudly shows off a chicken that was just killed by my older host brother

My host sister proudly shows off a chicken that was just killed by my older host brother

Chicken with hot red pepper sauce and rice

Chicken with hot red pepper sauce and rice

Fried Fish

Fried Fish

Dinner is where one can realize that Cameroonians make a wide variety of dishes.  Meat and fish are huge staples in Cameroon.  It is common to find people eating fish at least a few times a week, especially in the Grand South region.  Fish is usually fried with palm oil or grilled and is often served with rice, cassava or potatoes.  Sometimes it includes sauce such as peanut sauce or tomato sauce.  Beef is commonly found on people’s plates, especially in the Grand North region where cows are commonly found.  Like fish, it is often fried with palm oil or gilled and served with vegetables, cassava or rice and sauces.  Chicken is also quite common.  In fact, many Cameroonians like my host family kill chicken on their own and make their own fresh chicken.  Bush meat such as snakes and antelopes are very common.  Cameroonians are usually quite proud when they catch a bush meat.  Beans are also often served.  One of the most unique and traditional Cameroonian dish made with beans is Koke.  This dish that is originally from the West regions is made with beans and hot red pepper grind up and mixed with palm oil.  It’s cooked in a leaf over a fire like as if it’s cooked in an oven.  It tastes like a flan and the flavor is very rich and delicious.  Speaking of hot red peppers, hot red peppers are frequently found in many of Cameroonian dishes.  While many Cameroonians may not find hot red peppers not to taste so spicy, it may taste too spicy for Americans’ taste bud.  Yams and plantains with peanut cream is another common dish.  Peanut cream which one can say that is exactly like peanut butter as it’s grounded peanuts, but it tastes different from the peanut butter we eat in the United States.  It’s likely due to the fact that we add sugar to the peanut butter and peanut flavor is also different.  Pistachio is also commonly found in Cameroon and used in many dishes.  An example would be a pistachio flan which is very similar to Koke.

My host mother is making a koke

My host mother is making a koke

Koke

Koke

Bâton de Manioc, also known as Bobolo, is a food that is well-loved by many Cameroonians and is often found on the roads sold by locals.  I do have to unfortunately admit that many Americans including myself are not crazy about this food as it can taste a little bitter.  It looks like a stick wrapped up by a leaf.  Inside the leaf is ground cassava.  The purpose of using a leaf is to give the ground cassava some flavor.  It’s eaten throughout the day, be it lunch, dinner or snack.

Fruits are plentiful in Cameroon which includes pineapples, bananas, papayas, grapefruits and oranges.  In fact, oranges are green in Cameroon!

There is also French influence in Cameroon as boulangeries are found in major cities.  When walking into a boulangerie, it does feel like being in any bakery found in France.  It boasts a wide variety of fresh bread including whole wheat bread and milk bread, different types of croissants including pain au chocolat, and cakes.  Some boulangeries may also have quiche and focaccia.  Cheese are also often found in boulangeries but are usually very expensive.  Cheese is incredibly rare and almost non-existent in Cameroonian dishes.  While boulangeries are primarily found in major cities, French bread and milk bread can still be found in local shops in villages.

My host mothers prepares a bush meat, snake.

My host mothers prepares a bush meat, snake.

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