Oh, how I lust after hamburgers and fries. Or chocolate.
Loïc and I quickly ran out of our own local treats we brought over. The rusks evaporated in two tea times, and the amazing Belgian chocolate was Destroyed in Seconds™. Since then, it's been more difficult to procure and consume processed sweet things.
The school budget is pretty tight on food, so we tend to get produce in bulk from the local market. Think brown (and even red!) rice. Think corn kernels. Think boiled.
Malagasy meals mainly consist of rice or vary, with a side dish or ro. The side dish is a quarter of the size of the rice dish. Most Malagasy families are considered fortunate to have a side-dish.
Side-dishes can include:
- Local leaves
- Pumpkin (with smashed peanuts - imagine peanut butter and pumpkin together)
- Tilapia (a common fresh-water fish) in broth
- Shrimps and a spinach-like leaf
- Carrot and potato stew (sometimes with beef)
- Watercress and other local vegetables
- Eggs with unidentifiable greens (tastes amazing!)
- Beans of all varieties
Almost everything is boiled on an open fire in huge pots. We go through firewood here like crazy.
I can't reason with the quantities though. Everyone packs away an amazing amount of rice with each meal, and yet still look lean. We all learned (via the grapevine) that carbs are evil, right? It doesn't seem so in our situation here, but maybe there's another side to the equation here I'm not accounting for, possibly the burn-off.
One of the more western dishes we have quite regularly is baguettes for breakfast. But, the budget doesn't allow for any condiments, and the jars volunteers or staff bring along (like Marmite) quickly run out. I managed to find a small jar of Nutella at one of the local vendors, but that disappeared quickly too.
Some of the students have taken to dunking their bread in their water.
Epic Meal Time
We sit on woven mats that cover the kitchen floor. Then we place special mats (or fandambana) in the centre to act as the table, it is considered very rude to step over this mat, or to put anything but food or drink on the fandambanana.
After the faithful finish their prayer, we tuck in. There's an order to things here, and as a slow eater I'm letting the side down. See, I'm the oldest in the school, (I never thought that would happen!) and, as is custom, the oldest must dictate when the next course (mainly fresh fruit such as bananas or litchis) can be eaten.
We often have hot milk (which makes it sweeter) as a drink with lunch, but mostly we have water with tea on the side.
And the treats
Saturday is a great opportunity to head into town, and try some of the local restaurants.
Most restaurants serve the same basic dishes:
- Brochettes, skewers of grilled beef
- Pâté or noodles / pasta, typically served with spring onions, vegetables, and pork.
- Soups or broths
- Steak and chips
One of my daily routines is to stop by some of the local vendors and pick up any doughnut-equivalents they make locally. They're basically fried dough, but the dough is not sweetened, instead they add a little apricot jam or coconut, and they taste great!
Then I head over to one particular shop to get a cup of coffee and Caca pigeon or literally Pigeon Pooh. Think of the crumbs that might be collected from a cheesebread-sticks-making factory, that's Caca pigeon!
~20% weight loss in 2 months. Don't ask me how that's possible. 😳