How to explain the importance of parmesan cheese to Cameroonians

January 25th, 2015 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

Maggi is to Cameroonians.  Parmesan cheese is to Americans.  This is how I explain to my Cameroonian friends about the importance of Parmesan cheese.  I never realized that the parmesan cheese is the most prized food until when I made my first pasta dish at my post, a few days after moving to Bamenda.  When I first ate my pasta which was made with olive oil and stir fry vegetables, I detested it.  It didn’t take me long to realize it was because it lacked parmesan cheese.  Like many Americans, back home in the United States, I put parmesan cheese in every pasta dish I ate.  It made the pasta taste absolutely delicious.  Parmesan cheese is also frequently found in chicken, bread, pizza, and stir fry vegetables.  Parmesan cheese is truly one of the most important food in my home culture.

When I arrived in Bamenda, I thought I shouldn’t have too much trouble finding parmesan cheese because Bamenda sells many items imported from the United States and Europe, especially since the city is nicknamed “Bamerica.”  Nope!  I couldn’t find it anywhere.  In fact, cheese is very difficult to find in the whole country of Cameroon.  If I do find cheese, it’s very expensive.  I asked many Cameroonian friends if I could find it anywhere in the city because I was really desperate.  Yes.  I was THAT desperate.  My Cameroonian friends couldn’t understand.  This food is just not part of their culture and cuisine.  They didn’t grow up with it.  However, I quickly remembered one food that is the most prized food in Cameroon.  Maggi.  Maggi is a bouillon cube that can be broken apart and sprinkled into food.  Cameroonians put in almost every one of their food, especially pasta.  It does really make the pasta taste extra delicious.  They also often put in omelets and stir fry vegetables.  So, once I used Maggi as an analogy to explain the importance of parmesan cheese, they finally understood perfectly well about my desperation for parmesan cheese.

My host mother in Mengong breaks apart and sprinkles Maggie onto a plate to make an omelet.

My host mother in Mengong breaks apart and sprinkles Maggie onto a plate to make an omelet.

A couple weeks ago, my most wonderful family sent me two big containers of parmesan cheese in care packages.  My pasta dishes now no longer taste gross.

Spaghetti Bolognaise with Parmesan Cheese

Spaghetti Bolognaise with Parmesan Cheese

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