Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yvonne and the Kitchen

Yvonne is an incredible cook. She has natural ability to look inside the refrigerator and pantry, see what we have for ingredients, and put a dish together. She never follows a scripted recipe unless she is making something she has never made before (like when we asked her to make Falafel). Her recipes are all kept in her head, and her Senegalese specialties are recipes that have been handed down in her family.

She usually starts cooking around 2 pm. This week, I have joined her in the kitchen for her cooking sessions as I want to discover the secrets to her dishes. I bring the boys downstairs and we all sit in the kitchen. It is not only a time for me to see how she cooks, but also a time for us to talk with each other.

Yvonne supports many people in her household. She has 5 children, grandchildren, and even has some of her sisters children living with her. Two of her sisters were killed by rebels in Casamance when they were sleeping. She left her husband many years ago, which is a very brave thing for a Senegalese woman to do. It's hard for any woman to do, but here in Senegal there are cultural reasons why women should never leave. It is deeply frowned upon, no matter what the reason is for leaving.

She said she left him because he hurt her.

And that is when I noticed the many scars on her back. Arms. And legs too.

My time with Yvonne in the kitchen is something I look forward to every day. It's not just about learning her secrets to her creations, but a time to get to know her and learn about Senegalese culture.

Today we are making Ratatouille.

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