Sunday, April 17, 2011

Benin

Background: Benin was the first African country to successfully transfer power from a dictatorship to democracy
Location: Western Africa, between Nigeria and Togo
Area: Over 1000,000 sq km, 101st in the world
          Slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Coast: 121 km, Difficult access due to sandbanks
Population: Almost 9.5 million, 89th in the world
Birth rate: Over 38 births/1000 population; 15th in the world
Life expectancy at birth: 59.84 years, 188th in the world
HIV/AIDS: 1.2%, 39th in the world
Health: Very high risk of major infectious disease
Official language: French
Literacy: Only 23.3% for women over the age of 15
Capital: Porto-Novo
Disputes: Many border issues with neighbors, including Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria
Cuisine: Staples include corn and yam.  Fruit is easy to find, but meat is expensive

Source: CIA World Factbook

It wasn't very hard to figure out the national dish of Benin: Klui-Klui.  Essentially it is fried peanut better.  Kevin doesn't like peanuts but that wasn't going to stop me!  I found a recipe that was, above all else, simple.

It was a bit harder to find stuff to go with it.  Most of their recipes seemed to be quite minimalist and focused on getting a lot of value out of a little bit of stuff.  This makes a lot of sense with some of their stats above.  Finally I decided on Benin Red Sauce.  It was similar to the other things I had found, plus it had the option of adding meat.  Otherwise a husband protest was a sure possibility.

I decided to begin with the Klui-Klui so it had some time to sit and separate.  Not 24 hours, but at least I could see how it was progressing.
I wasn't really sure how much to use.
Peanut mush!
Looking at the manual for my food processor, it recommended pulses for things like this.  But it didn't really make peanut butter.  The consistency was very grainy and very dry.  But I put it in a bowl and let it sit out the next few rounds.

The steps for the read sauce, at least those that I have pictures of, are fairly simple.  Fry some vegetables, add some more, mix everything else in, let it boil.  The harder part was just getting there, mostly with chopping a lot of tomatoes.
Dear commissary, I'm sorry if someone else came looking for tomatoes that day and couldn't find any.  I had them all.
Post - chopping.
This was the collateral damage.  Take out the stem, take off the sticker.  Plus, it makes it easier to count how many you have already done.
The recipe did not say whether I was supposed to skin the tomatoes or not.  Choosing the lazy route, I went with no.  However, this made it very hard to squish them.  You would think that would make me change my course, but not-so-much.
Potato mash(er)!  Except it was more like potato masher that just slightly squeezes some of the juice out.
Hot peppers again.  I made Kevin try them so I knew how spicy they were.  He started coughing and made me go get him milk.
Those tomatoes do not look squished enough.
During this time, I also made some chicken.  I decided to go with a basic "boil, seasoned with some salt and pepper."  See, this is something I have learned from this adventure.  Otherwise I would have fried it.  Things are looking up!
This week I can actually show you Curie, because I got her to sit still.  Things between her and Tesla are still interesting.  They can fall asleep inches away from each other, but as soon as he tries to play she goes all crazy cat.  He has a lot of scratches on his nose right now.  Apparently we have a stubborn household...
Beautiful kitty.
He is trying to woo her with his piano playing.  And no, we did not set this photo up.
This look means he's about to get, or just got, bopped in the head.
I let the concoction sit longer than it called for, but it wasn't really getting saucy, just runny.  Plus, the tomatoes weren't breaking down like promised.  The skin and large chunks were not helping.  But eventually I had to serve it anyway.

The other pictures of Kevin didn't turn out.  But look, he is wearing a collared shirt!
We'll give this one a hearty meh.  There wasn't much excitement.  There were no herbs or spices, and it wasn't even that spicy by the end.  As Kevin put it, it seemed filling but bland.  Fitting for people who don't have a money and are trying to get their sustenance.

I'm also assuming it didn't quite turn out right because it didn't say it had to be served with anything else (chicken, rice, etc.)  I'm not sure how you would eat the one I made on its own.  I wonder if starting with canned diced tomatoes would have helped.  It could have saved my from some of my problems.

As for the Klui-Klui, the mush never separated.  It was very far from being peanut-butter like.  So that one ended up being scrapped.  That's right, two weeks in a row with the dishes that didn't even make it to the table.  I need to get out of this trend!

Also, I still ended up with stinging eyes this week due to the peppers.  Maybe I should use gloves.  Except all I have are winter ones.  Wouldn't that be interesting?

Last time: Belize
Next time: Bhutan

2 comments:

  1. I recommend against winter gloves for such a task... I have a whole box of latex ones left over from anatomy lab, all you have to do is come to Michigan for them!

    The Tesla/Curie throwdown sounds epic.
    Bhutan sounds yummy.

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  2. I can't even deal with the fact that Tesla inadvertently was Keyboard Cat... that picture kills me.

    Also, Curie is a pretty pretty cat!

    ANd I'm aware this comment makes me sound like a crazy cat lady. Ah well.

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