Since I got to Bouar, I haven't eaten mangoes to my satisfaction because I tried a few and they were not so great.
Growing up, we had about 5 mango trees around the house which produced different kinds of mangoes, two produced the same kind. Our neighbours had different ones which we gladly shared and there were names for all of them.
One I didn't particularly like was the one we called "kerosene' mango. It has an acidic taste to it unlike others that were sheer pleasure to eat.
Anyway, I bought similar mangoes to the ones I ate in Bangui at different times but they tasted like they were artificially ripened. They looked ripe but eating them proved otherwise which was a let down. We have been fortunate to be fed with fruits and vegetables daily in the Catholic mission house where we 'live' so it has made not cooking what I want bearable. The mangoes that are provided for us there happen to be kerosene mangoes which I've had to make do with.
I've come to realise how food is important. Growing up, I wondered why my parents fussed so much about how food was made, it's presentation etc. My father would say food should be fun to look at and eat. I still remember my father's signature jacket potatoes from childhood, I might remind him to make that the next time I'm home for long enough. This goes to show how everything food including fruits and vegetables were treated in our household. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables and presentation is key especially as there are so many colours to play around with.
In the last month, I've been full of appreciation for how readily available I've always had food. I come from a big family of 8, my parents and 6 siblings. We had relatives around quite often so my mother (bless her) has always shopped in bags or cartons. She would buy things like rice, beans and sugar in bags, spaghetti in a carton, packets of seasoning, tubers of yam and the freezer always had meat packed and ready for use. We could always pick up perishable items as needed.
Here in Bouar I've mostly eaten at the Catholic mission house which has decent food. I've eaten out a few times but we've always had to call the day before or in the morning to enable them purchase the food items. I imagine they wouldn't want it to waste if it weren't consumed. I find this odd as I also imagine that there are usually always people who would buy food. But who am I to say?! I just got here so what do I know?
I'm out in the field now and the options for food have been 'mishwi' = grilled beef, avocado, beans, 'shikwang' = ground cassava made in banana leaves (kind of similar to 'ogi' in Nigeria) and a less nice version of eba (ground cassava made into a paste) or two (ground maize made into a paste). In Nigeria, the cassava is allowed to ferment slightly before it is prepared. I doubt if they allow the cassava ferment here and it is ground fine unlike how grainy eba is so it tastes bland to a Nigerian like me. They call them 'la boule' like we would call them 'swallow' in Nigeria. Again I've watched them eat the 'swallow' without any sauce. They seem content to eat it dry with meat the way I saw Tanzanians eat theirs.
|Shikwang and mishwi|
|La boule and sauce|
For some reason, I took garri with me to the field and it came in handy, how pleased I was. On two days when I couldn't bear to wait in the heat and smoke for food, and didn't feel like having la boule (swallow), I opted for garri and ground nuts pictured below :-)
|Garri and ground nuts|
It's all dirt roads and they are bumpy so it's back to no eating before I get on the road otherwise I would spend the trip being sick and throwing up.
Thankfully a colleague was kind enough to send cereal bars when I asked, and of course I came out with my Jacobs cream crackers! These (photos above) will be more than enough to keep me through the week.
Back to mangoes, I've been spoilt with them so please do not judge me as I continue my hunt to find some. I don't see other options for fruits or else pineapples would have been the thing to look out for. Normally in rural areas you would think that it would be easy to find cheap fruits but that hasn't been the case here. Bangui seems to have it all! I've been functioning with no fruits and vegetables and I have to load up on some vitamins, hahahahahahaha. Where does avocado fall by the way? I've had a bit of that as well.