Volunteers are always complaining about the monotony of village food It’s rice and peanuts, peanuts and rice. So why not make pizza instead?
In many villages, there is a large wood fire bread oven where the bread maker makes the “tapalapa” bread for the village. During my recent trip to Ian’s village, Missirah Dantila, with my new Saraya site mates (Pat and Annē), we decided to attempt to make pizza in the oven. Prior to returning to his village, Ian bought tomato paste and cheese in Kedougou, and we bought flour, yeast, onions, and sugar in the village. The local bread maker graciously let us use his oven for the evening in return for a taste of our dinner. Ian’s counterpart, Cheikh, was very excited about the project and joined in to make the pizzas.
Pat, our resident bread expert, showed us how to make bread dough with flour, yeast, and water. While the dough rose, we biked out to the river to watch the sunset. When we returned, Annē and I chopped onions by candlelight with a Swiss Army knife and caramelized them in a metal bowl on Ian’s gas tank burner. Next, we heated up the tomato paste with water and added in some sugar and salt to cut the bitter taste. Ian found some basil growing near the health post, so we chopped it up and tossed it into the sauce as well.
|Ian, Cheikh, and Pat|
|Adding the toppings|
The pizzas were beautiful! As Pat mentioned while we were biting into them, we would pay top dollar for these “artisanal pizzas” in the US. It’s amazing what you can make in a village with the right ingredients! We ate some of the pizza and shared the rest with the villagers on Ian’s compound. Their reaction was hilarious.
We were so excited to share a taste of America (or Italy) with the village, but most of them took one bite and didn’t like it! Since they are used to only eating a few ingredients in their food, these flavors may have been too complex. Another issue that arose was that most people in the village don’t have a full set of teeth, so biting into a crunchy crust proved difficult. There were a few exceptions though. Cheikh was a pizza fan and talked it up to his friends.
Volunteers often feel guilty about eating things like pizza at the regional house since our villagers don’t have that option, but the irony that we found was that villagers didn’t even like it! Maybe pizza is an acquired taste. Regardless, it was fun to share a taste of our culture and to eat pizza in the village. Now, it’s back to rice and peanuts.