Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Purducken

This post was written on 11-29-11 but I haven't had internet...

This Thanksgiving, we decided at the Kedougou Regional House to make an unconventional meal.  A few weeks before the big day, we were all sitting around, joking about the idea of making a Turducken, which is a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey.  Then someone decided to take it even further and throw out the idea of putting all those animals in a pig to make it even more epic.  And why not dig a huge hole and try cooking this masterpiece in the ground?  I thought it was a joke, but one thing Peace Corps volunteers love is a challenge. 

When I arrived at the house the day before Thanksgiving, Mission Purducken was in action.  All 4 animals had been bought and brought in from various locations.  The live turkey was sent down from Tamba!  All 3 birds needed to be killed, plucked, and cleaned.  That day, we prepared the 3 birds, pig, and stuffing and sewed all the birds inside the pig with wire.  The guys had dug a massive hole and gathered all the materials necessary to keep the coals hot for the 18 hours we were leaving it in the ground. 

Thanksgiving day was filled with lots of cooking, and we managed to make some tasty dishes!  We made mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and gravy.  I attempted to make a cranberry sauce substitute with bissap flowers but failed.  Apparently bissap flowers don’t cook the same way cranberries do, so I tried adding cherry jello mix to stiffen up the bissap juice with no success.  Luckily there were other dishes that worked out well.  Some other volunteers made a carrot cake, cheesecake, and apple pie for dessert.  I was amazed at the food you can make with limited resources!

Around 5pm, we dug up the Purducken!  The guys laid the giant pig down on some tarps outside and began carving into it.  I think my favorite part of the day was when a few of the guys were cutting pieces of meat off to put in giant bowls to serve later, and we all formed a circle of stools around them, waiting for handouts!  They’d throw us some meat and stuffing as we hovered like vultures. 

After piling mountains of food into our bowls, we all sat around the porch, stuffing ourselves.  Since the main staple of our diets here is rice, I think we all went into protein overload!  Just like the end of any normal Thanksgiving, we fell into food comas and clutched our full stomachs, complaining that we ate too much.  The Purducken was a success!

The following day, Ian and I decided to venture off to a small Bassari village in the mountains to check out the crafts they make.  It was Black Friday, so of course we had to go shopping!  We took a Niokolo 90k to Salemata and then biked a hilly bush path out to Echelo, the Bassari village.  One of our friends lives in Echelo, but she was in Dakar for Thanksgiving, so we made the trek out there on our own. 

We had a wonderful time in the village, which had such a different feel than any village I’d been to.  Since Bassari’s are Christian and animist, they have a different lifestyle than Muslims.  After seeing some unique crafts (jewelry, masks, etc), we went over to our friend’s family’s compound for dinner.  For dinner, we were served an amazing chicken and squash dish, and I was in heaven!  As some of you know, I have an obsession with pumpkin, so I was very excited to eat squash!  When we were finished eating, the men reminded us to thank the women who cooked the meal.  That was the first time I’ve ever heard a man suggest that women deserved praise after cooking a meal.  In Bassari culture, women seem to hold much more power in the household, and they are treated with more respect than I’d seen before.  The villagers seemed more complimentary of women and praised virtues instead of pointing out all the faults in them.  Granted, this was only one night in the village, but it seemed like a very positive environment to live in. 

Since the villagers aren’t Muslim, they drink alcohol and are known for their delicious honey and palm wines.  After dinner, we sat around, drinking tea and palm wine.  Ian whipped out some mango gummy bears to share with the group, and we sat around the hot coals, chatting into the night.  The following morning, we rose early and biked back to Salemata to catch a car back to Kedougou.  All in all, it was a fun adventure!

Now I’m back in Nafadji in my last stint in village before I head home for the holidays!  Projects are in motion!  I have 10 enthusiastic women signed up for my Care group, and our first meeting will be in January, when I return from vacation.  Ian and I are working on our cervical cancer screening and are hoping to hold it in both of our villages next week.  We’re also working on a project to train middle school students to become health experts who can lead health discussions with their peers at school.  After we request funding for our project, we’re hoping to hold the training in the spring.  We’re still waiting on our funding request for our matrone training, but we should hear back about that soon!

The babies are getting bigger!  With four circulating around the compound, holding babies has become a common pastime.  We all take turns getting peed and pooped on, since there are no diapers here.  I gave each new mom a baby mosquito net where they can zip the baby into a netted enclosure.  They’ve been using them as places for the babies to hang out during the day to keep the flies off of them.  I often walk outside to find the four baby mosquito enclosures lined up on a mat with the babies inside!

It’s nice to be back in Nafadji!  Tomorrow morning I’ll be weighing all the babies in the village while Sarr does vaccinations, and this Sunday, I’ll be heading to Saraya to do the radio show.  A couple weeks ago, we did a fun radio show explaining what Thanksgiving is!  We described it as a “Toubab Tabaski”.  Probably too soon to talk about colonization, right?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to see friends and family in Seattle soon!!! 


  1. What a wonderful post. Full of surprises and smiles. We can't wait to see you next week. All your jackets are lined up as it has been quite a while in Seattle since we had 90 degree weather in the winter.

  2. Another great read Marielle--loved all the wonderful details as always. Can't wait to see you next week!!! (Just bought a giant box of pumpkin flax cereal and it has your name on it:)) Will be bringing your down parka to the airport for sure.