The beat of Africa

The last week of our epic holiday was spent on the coast in Senegal.

A girlfriend I’ve known my entire adult life is living in Dakar, and the chance to catch up with her was the original impetus for our trip. 

Senegal is a vibrant country, considered by most to be the economic centre of West Africa. It is an independent nation, but its history as a French republic left behind the language and a penchant for croissants and coffee. The capital city, Dakar, was our base while we were there. 

If you know anything about Senegal it could well be the music. Artists such as Youssou N’Dour brought the country attention here in North America with the traditional “mbalax” beat that was catchy and very danceable, if unusual.

I found there was much about the country that gave me the same impression: 

  • the colourful and intricately patterned fabrics the women dress in 
  • the unusual taste combinations in food, from hot chiles to cloves to tropical fruits
  • the frenetic nature of the city with its winding streets full of cars, donkey carts and commuter buses… and a few goats or cows wandering around for good measure

Our friends have a beautiful place right at the ocean in Dakar – our room had a view of the waves crashing into shore, with the lights of far-off container ships often twinkling in the night.

It was a beautiful oasis, the perfect grand finale for our voyage. 

We ate many of our meals at the house, out on the veranda where the wind helped cool us a bit, as the temperatures stayed warm, even into the night.

Breakfast was croissants and pain au chocolat with coffee or tea, as the pastries here are not to be missed. The local papaya was also delicious, as were the bananas (much more flavourful than what we are used to, as they are a different variety).

I was also keen to try Café Touba, a local coffee flavoured with cloves; it is served black and has a woodsy, heart-warming character, I thought. 

Lunch is the biggest meal here, with chicken or fish being the usual features. (Being a Muslim country, pork is rare here, and once you’ve seen an African cow, you can understand why the beef dishes are always a sort of stew.)

Everything is served with couscous or a short-grain rice. 

One day, we had a delicious sea bream in a ginger cream sauce. Ginger is used often here, even as a juice to drink.

I was amazed that it was so popular, but Dakar’s history as a popular trading port going back to the days of the spice and then slave trade meant that many different ingredients became part of the usual supply.

Portugal, Britain, France and the Netherlands all competed to control the trade here. 

Another delicious meal was Chicken Yassa, a traditional Senegalese favourite – chicken cooked in a tangy onion sauce.

My hubby wondered if perhaps there was some connection here with a traditional French dish, as the sauce tastes much like a more concentrated version of French onion soup.

It is also delicious with fish, and easy to make

I think my favourite taste from Senegal though, was “bouye,” juice made from the fruit of the baobab tree (also called monkey bread fruit). It is a pale pink colour, and quite thick – like a smoothie with bananas in it – and it tastes a bit like guava, banana and passion fruit all blended in one glass.

It is rich in vitamins and nutrients; the locals say it will cure anything from a fever to dysentery. I just found it made me smile.

Of note though: if you ever come across one of these fruits, be careful of the fuzzy skin as it makes you itch terribly.

Senegal was a place that truly was another world, apart from what is usual for us. I was glad that we had a chance to glimpse at least a bit of it, as it provided a chance to understand how different the world can be.

This was the perfect end to our epic holiday, sampling a taste of another continent with great friends and sharing memories that will last across the miles. 

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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