Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Day 2 in Africa: Yummy Yassa
Today we went to the American embassy to meet with Kristin Stewart (A U of Michigan grad--shout out to Jed) now working for the state department in the cultural and pubic affairs sector. She kindly took us to lunch, and we discussed the exhibit over tasty Lebanese wraps. She was able to give us the name of the head conserviteur at the Ifan museum, as well as several other contacts with the french cultural institue. As we were leaving she extended the invitation to an Art Gala at the ambassador's home. Apparently there will be artisits and artisans from all over Senegal, and several politicians in attendance.
We visited many different Bijouteries (jewelry shops) and gathered more information about the traditional styles of jewelry, taking careful note of the Wolof names for the various ancient styles. It looks like we will need to leave the center of town and go to a few small villages outside of Dakar to find more women and goldsmiths who still wear and make the type of jewelry that interests Dr. Johnson.
Dakar is a charming, but poverty-stricken city. The people are breathtakingly beautiful, and extremely kind. It has been such a sad and strange sort of dichotomy to see women in costly apparel sporting fashionable boubous and covered head to toe in jewelry, contrasted with women and children wearing threadbare clothing trying their best to survive on the streets. It is especially difficult to see children who are not properly cared for, and people with crippling diseases. I wish there was more that I could do to help.
In the evening, we went to a local restau and ate a wonderful meal of traditional Yassa and Tiebou Dienne. The Yassa was made with blackened and grilled fish (served head, eyes, teeth and all--though we opted not to eat the head) on a bed of couscous. The Tiebou Dienne we selected was made with sauteed onions and other legumes in a very soupy, flavorful sauce, with chunks of chicken floating on the surface. This dish was served with white rice and dipping bread. Words cannot describe the incredible marriage of flavors in these dishes. You will simply have to come to Senegal and experience it for yourselves.