Sunday, December 16, 2012

John Wayne and Magical Velveeta Cheese

Here’s an oldie…written in November, that unfortunately never got posted due to the lack of internet connectivity here:  even when you “have” internet, the reso is so bad and slow, that things don’t work anyways and you might as well just not have Internet at all….

November 19, 2012

What?...a new blog post….only five days after the last one?   Yup, that’s right.  I have internet again!   And again, I am in village, sitting in the comforts of my house, listening to the crickets and toads outside (they’re quite loud, but I’ll take them any day over the horrendous, ear-wrenching noise of donkeys), as I work on my computer.  And once again, I’m in the process of trying to upload some stuff and read some emails.

Tomorrow is marché day, so as soon as I’m done with my morning classes (just 2 hours of math tomorrow: 7-8am and 8-9am), I’ll be hopping on my bike and pedaling the short 15 minutes to my market.
At the market!  Lots of veggies to buy, such as cabbage and eggplant (bottom left),
and hot spicy peppers (right).  Note the women with the bike, carrying her baby
on her back while trying to maneuver through the "aisles."
Caterpillars, anyone?  Such a delicacy!  Really, they are, and actually, they aren't
too bad!  I have tried them: my friends sauteed thhem in oil and onions, and also served them in a tomato
sauce over rice.   Not too bad!  Mhmm mhmm.

the marche

It really is quite a nice bike ride.  The path winds and curves, with trees branches to duck from every now and then, as well as the occasional big rock to swerve around, not to mention herds of animals (cows, sheep, and goats) crossing in front of me.  In general, this area has a lot of animals, primarily due to the fact that the river isn’t too far away, so at the very least (and during the driest of months) there’s bound to be at least one water source.  Also, we have a lot of Peuhl people, and what they know and do is animals.  Basically, they’re kinda like nomads, in that they wander around with their animals, packing up and moving the entire village when necessary.  Tangent: it’s the Peuhl women who bring calabashes of fresh milk on their heads to the marché – and I buy this milk (and boil it to kill any weird stuff living in it) and either drink it as hot chocolate or make it into cheese.  Mhmm, mhmm! 
My milk ladies!  Peuhl women selling milk at the marche.  The milk is in the tan bowls (called calabashes --- dried gourds),  and generally, the women carry these bowls are their heads when they walk throughout the marche.  How they manage not to spill is beyond me...

But in recent years, the Peuhls have started to settle down, remaining in village, learning French and other local languages in the village even though they have their own language (Fufuldi), and sending their kids to school.  However, what they still live and breathe is animals.  While the well-off villager might own a bull or two for plowing fields, a couple donkeys for pulling carts, some goats or sheep, and a handful of chickens, the Peuhls have HERDS of animals.  As in hundreds of four-legged creatures that bring “traffic” (i.e. other donkey carts, kids on bicycles, mom’s walking with babies on their backs…etc.) to a halt as we wait for all the animals to lethargically cross the road with their “herdsman” trailing in the dust storm behind them.  The herdsmen are often just little boys ages 5-15 who weren’t lucky enough to get to go to school and are dressed in rags and probably carry a stick to hit the cows with and get to spend their whole day following the herd and leading it to water or other fresh sources of vegetation to eat….which sometimes means villagers’ corn fields…  But, in all seriousness, the herds of animals, quite seriously, are reminiscent of a scene from a John Wayne western movie!   The wild, wild west is alive and kicking, here in WEST Africa!

Anyways, speaking of Peuhls and herds of animals and dairy products (i.e. calabashes of milk), Molly opened a package of Velveeta cheese yesterday!  It was magical.  Thanks Molly’s parents!  And thank you, Kraft, for inventing one of the best things ever: fake cheese that tastes really good and melts and makes amazing American comfort food (like the mac-n-cheese we ate yesterday for lunch, or the grilled cheese sandwiches we made ourselves today!) and can be shipped to anywhere, even Burkina Faso without going bad.  And even if it does go bad, it’s still edible!   Yes, this is a fact.  We may or may not have given in to eating semi-questionable looking cheese when we made chili and quesadillas for Halloween.  According to the date on the package, it was definitely expired by a few months...but we opened it up anyways.  It had multiple weird colored spots on it, and its scent wasn’t quite like Velveeta normally is, nor was the taste quite up to par, but it still melted and still tasted pretty decent compared to many things we come across in Burkina.  So we decided to go with it, hoping it wouldn’t make us sick.  We cut off the weird spots, and then went crazy making cheese filled quesadillas.  We also made the tortillas ourselves, of course.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buying tortillas.  Homemade is definitely the way to go, even if it takes some time to roll out the little circles of dough…    Anyways, we each ate more than our share of questionable cheese that night, and no one got sick!  Hence, Velveeta does not go bad, and, as previously stated, is magical! 

One of the feasts Molly and I were able to make possible due to the lovely items sent in Molly's care package: Fritos and velveeta cheese.  Molly likes to call this tasty creation "Chili cheese pie" and the chili was delicious -- with local beans and rice in it, along with a few random things like gumbo (okra) and eggplant.  

P.S.  Anyone and everyone is always welcome to send me Velveeta cheese and/or any other cheese-like tasty edible item!   

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