Monday, May 25, 2009

And the winner is...

I did it the old fashioned way. I wrote down all of your names on little pieces of paper, and drew out of a hat (well, a bowl really).

And the winner is...

Melinda. She asked the question "Do you see any signs of positive change in Goma besides SHONA?" Melinda please email me at hurleydawn at gmail dot com so that I can send you your free patchwork bag!

I've had a lot of fun on this give-away reading all your questions, now here comes the challenging part...answering them all. I'll be answering one question each day this week. This may be the only time in the "From Congo" blog that you will see daily entries, so try and keep up! And please feel free to chime in with comments along the way.

And now for the Question first question...

"I have many questions, but my first one is, tell us about the food! When you first got there, did you have trouble getting used to it? Did you get sick? How do you go grocery shopping? I'm sure there isn't a Safeway you shop at an open market? Do you cook Congolese food all the time now or do you cook just as if you were in the States?"

The food of Congo...

Congolese are rumored to eat lots of crazy things. Even the Congolese will say this, but they are usually saying it in reference to people from another tribe and/or another part of the country. For example, I have heard numerous stories about people who eat cats. Of course I have never met anyone who admits to having eaten a cat, none the less the stories abound.

My experience of the food here is quite tame. We eat mostly Congolese food in the form of beans, rice, potatoes, cooking bananas, and greens. I am not much of a meat or fish eater, hence the heavily vegetarian fare. However most of the people here in Goma love meat and fish. Poor Congolese eat much more meat and fish than poor people in nearby countries like Rwanda. Part of this is cultural. There is a strong feeling that you haven't really eaten if there was no meat. Part of this is also probably due to price differences in other countries.

I love Congolese food, at least the vegetarian variety that I eat, and am perfectly happy to eat it most of the time. However at least a couple times a week I have cravings for other types of food, particularly more spicy food (in the scheme of things Congolese food is rather bland). We cook Indian, Thai and Mexican food at home from time to time, and we also have a local Indian restaurant which is a complete dive but the food is good.

But I must admit, even here in Goma there are a few things that I refuse to eat, mostly because I am a wimp. There is a local speciality called Senene. These are grasshopper like insects that suddenly appear during rainy season. Children run about trapping them. They are a local delicacy and are usually fried. I have heard many wazungu, including my husband, insist they are delicious and taste rather like bacon. (click her for more info)

On Sundays we almost invariably wake to the smell of burning hair. This is because our neighbors in the apartment next to us roast a goat head as their special Sunday meal. I am not sure exactly how they go about eating it, but I do find the smell rather disturbing and tend to close my eyes as I walk by their grill. They find this very amusing of course.

Being the soft hearted girl that I am, I also have a lot of trouble on New Years Day. The sounds of goats and cows being slaughtered throughout the town in celebration breaks my heart! The Congolese find my inability to deal with the slaughter of animals wildly amusing and a great way to liven up any conversation has turned out to be the discussion of why I have never killed a chicken.

Most of the food that we eat comes from a local, outdoor market (which really just means a whole lot of tables set up on the side of the road). However there are two "grocery stores" that have recently opened in Goma to our delight. They aren't very big but you would be amazed at the random collection of stuff inside. My husband recently bought hickory smoked barbecue sauce. I bought brownie mix.

So there you have it. I think we probably have all the food we need right here in Goma.

Stay tuned for question 2 tomorrow!


Lynn said...

Dawn! I can't believe you won't eat the grasshoppers! A friend of mine brought fried grasshoppers home from Mexico and I tried them. They were fine, once I got past the idea I was putting a bug in my mouth. A goat's head: now that I don't know about. :) Where do the fish come from? Not from that methane-filled lake, I assume. There are some clean waters to fish in?

Julie said...

Hi Dawn! Can I still ask a question even though the contest is over? Where do you live? In an apartment or a house? & are you ever scared? xoxo Julie

Julie said...

Ooops I didn't realize the comment wouldn't show exactly who I am. Julie Sienkiewicz Elliott.

Anonymous said...

Good call on the bugs, Dawn! Besides, I think that bugs would definitely qualify as meat and would therefore not fit into a vegetarian diet. :)

Shona said...

I am going with Mama Rena on this one. Bugs are just not meant to be eaten! Sorry Lynn.

Good question on the fish. Because of the methane content of Lake Kivu there are not many fish in the lake. However there are some small ones, and there are a fair amount of fisherman who make their living fishing in the lake, particularly on the Rwandan side. THey mostly fish for these tiny fish called "sambaza" that are then fried and eaten whole, or put in a sauce.

Most of the larger fish here come from Uganda. There are three varieties: smoked, salted, or fresh. Obviously the fresh fish costs the most, since transport is difficult. I have heard that there are motorcylces with coolers on the back for transporting the fresh fish, but have yet to see one.

Julie, Absolutely you can still ask a question. (anyone else can feel freee to jump in as well). I'm putting your question on the list and will answer it later this week, so stay tuned. I love hearing from all of you! What fun. Thanks for participating.