June 06, 2015

Fresh Chairs

Getting chairs recovered in Africa.  Fast and cost effective.

Step 1: dismantle chairs with son on porch

Step 2: sew fabric and piping for chair seat

Step 3: bask in results

Step 4: arrange around the table and invite friends over for brunch

Fresh Lettuce

I was craving fresh lettuce for weeks, and complaining to Adeel about it.  So he went straight to the source -- a lettuce field...

And he bought three humongous bags.  Which, if we ate lettuce exclusively, could feed the both of us for weeks.

From Adeel's Facebook Page

May 17, 2015

Bouillie, Dried Mangoes, and Cashew Apples


Malian dishes vary from region to region, but the staples are normally rice, millet, sorghum and fonio (a fine-grained cereal found in Africa). These are served with sauces of fish, meat or vegetables. Grains are often used to make porridges; for example, many Malian’s eat bouille for breakfast, a sweet milk and cereal dish which is a little like runny rice pudding.

 Tiny balls made from a mixture of different grains, drying in the sun

When the grains are dried, they are gathered and...

... packed in various plastic bags for easy shipping

 It is then cooked with water, and sugar and powdered milk (if available) by the women, and presented to the men for eating, for special occasions

Dried Mangoes
When produced on a large scale, mangoes are desiccated in large ovens.  Steps are illustrated here:

 Achat/Recolte --> Transport --> Murissement --> Triage --> Lavage --> Epluchage --> Tranchage/Coupe --> Mise en Claie --> Sechage --> Claieage --> Triage/pesage --> Conditionnement

 Drying Ovens

The finished product (ginger powder on the left, dried mangoes on the right)

Cashew Apples
Did you know that cashews actually came in this form?  People in the village tend to eat the fruit, and throw out the top part, which is the cashew...  Given how labor intensive it is to have to harvest cashews, I now understand why they are so expensive!

Chickens and Heat in Mali

We've been here nearly 6 weeks in the height of the hot season.  It's been a bit rough to go from -10c in Washington DC to almost 110c in Bamako.

Apparently, it's rough on the local chickens here too.  The price of chicken (whole, breasts etc) is a lot higher than beef.  This is something we were not expecting, especially since we expected cows to be more difficult to take care of than a few chickens running in the dusty side streets of neighborhoods.

People tell us that the chickens just don't do well in this intense heat.  As a result, there's less of them around than during the rain season.  Adeel also buys a lot of eggs on a weekly basis.  Every morning when he makes his omelette or hard boiled eggs, he exclaims with great surprise "these are the smallest eggs I've ever seen!"

Our eggs are colored with what we hope are speckles of mud (or chicken poo?)

Evolution of a Man Bun

I told Adeel early on upon our arrival that I really like Man Buns.  This is a prime specimen for example:


Adeel has been a great sport and indulged me in my preference.  He's been working diligently on growing his own man bun.

Back in January 2015, with our niece Zoe

March 2015, the hard Middle Period

The only way to deal with this hair is to slick it back, Used-Car Salesman Style

Now it's long enough to wear with a headband, basking in the glorious rays of the afternoon sun

I cant wait to see what next phase awaits us!

April 12, 2015

Finding Our Way Around Bamako

 Adeel, being cool

 Mobile hand-washing stations set up in nearly all restaurant, following the Ebola oubreak

 Our eggs come with extra chicken goo and feathers

 Goats and donkeys roam free in the city

 Hashing (a running and walking group) is a great way to visit those rarely visited places in Bamako

 A cute little Malian child.  He was excited to see us.  
He even offered his hand to Adeel for a handshake

 About 45 minutes from Bamako is Le Campement, a simple but elegant "resort" in a remote neighborhood

 Plastic bags and trash litter the Bamako landscape everywhere

We found a neat little marketplace close to our house. Although hygiene wasn't the best, and the vegetables have to be bleached and washed several times over.

 Pirogue along the Niger River

 A typical menu at a Malian Restaurant

 Our local Chinese restaurant.  The Chinese have really settled into Africa (where they were non-existent 10 years ago), giving us more dinner-time choices

Live chickens for sale

Dorothee and Adeel enjoying sodas after a hard walk

April 06, 2015

Dairy in Africa

One of the things I was dreading about going to Mali, was the lack of dairy products.  Being 1/2 French, cheese, milk, crème fraiche and all derivatives thereof are nectars of the Gods to me. 

In Senegal and Congo, I remember not being able to get fresh milk, and the cheese seemed to be way beyond my budget...

Though I haven't yet attempted to buy the milk in plastic bags yet, I have been surprised by the quality of yogurt "Mali Lait" makes.  Frankly, they are good -- in fact, they are much nicer than the ones in the States.  Lightly sweetened with sugar, strawberry, vanilla, or plain, they have a nice rich texture to them, and taste fresh.

Today, I bought Nido Powdered Milk and experimented with making dairy products at home.  Daunted by the task at hand (I had a pretty unsuccessful try about 10 years ago in Senegal), my Father-in-Law makes his own Greek-style yogurt and has assured me several times that it couldn't be simpler.


I will post my attempts at making various dairies with recipes, but in the meantime, check out this Palak Paneer I concocted using powdered milk:

Straining the curds and whey through a coffee filter (I didn't even know what those where and why Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating and seemingly enjoying them)

Tada, Palak Paneer (although, in the interest of honesty, this is an Indian dish, so you know there's 23 steps with hard-to-to-find spices before it gets to the completion stage...Fortunately, our air shipment with spices, arrived about a week ago)

March 26, 2015

Things to do in Bamako: Les Mercredis du Patio (Concerts at the French Institute)

Every Wednesday evenings, the Institut Francais holds concerts in its little restaurant.  Yesterday, we went to listen to Djeneba et Fousco, a group from Kayes, a city in Western Mali.

Even though I was exhausted (I have been averaging about 5 hours per night for the last three weeks -- the antimalarial gives me bad insomnia), it was great to be back listening to West African music.

This is a panorama of the evening.

Update from Bamako, Week 3

Dear Family,

Hope you all are doing well. We wanted to send you an update about our life in Bamako. This is our third week here, and we are starting to discover the lay of the land. Though we live in a pretty sheltered neighborhood, with a small pool, we often have to venture out to super markets located in crowded neighborhoods. More than once, we've gotten lost on tiny side roads full of broken down cars, goats, and kids playing. 

We cannot do all our grocery shopping in one place. We usually have to go to a couple different small supermarkets to find everything, which takes a lot of time every week. Luckily, we find fresh fruits and vegetables at outdoor stands at very good prices. Right now mangoes and mandarins are in season, so they're plentiful and delicious. Adeel cannot find chicken breasts all the time, so he's learning to snap them up and freeze them if they're ever available.

We bleach our vegetables in one gallon of water and one capful of bleach--and have learned not to wear our best clothes when doing that (see picture of Dorothee's ruined shirt).

Bleaching our fruits and vegetables

Dorothee's shirt

The fruit stand where Adeel shops

Our pool

Adeel soaking in the pool after a hot day

A palm tree with coconuts in our back yard

In the dusty streets (whether paved or not), we frequently get accosted by people trying to sell us scents, toys, kleenexes, and plant hammocks

Unpaved roads are plentiful

Women dressed in boubous riding motos are a common sight in Bamako

Thankfully, we do find chocolate croissants and other sweets at local patisseries and boulangeries

Some sweets at a bakery that also serves excellent Lebanese food (Le Relax)

Adeel trying to play an African musical instrument at Mali Chic store

Streets are littered with trash--this is a really deep sewer that is completely filled. Where will the torrential rains of the wet season go?

Even if it takes a lot more time to source and prepare the ingredients, we are still able to cook the way we like.

Miss you all,
Adeel and Dorothee