Sunday, May 20, 2007

Guilty Pleasures…

Despite my usual moral high ground stance to food, there is the odd thing that slips through the net. These guilty fixes of trashy processed crud that would normally be met with a cynical barracking, and some half baked theory about why they spell the end of civilisation as we know it etc.

For some reason, and only when I’m abroad, I have this weird penchant for La Vache qui rit – also known as the laughing cow cheese: Each little cheese comes individually wrapped in a foil triangle, rather like those filthy little Dairylea triangles that we get in the UK. I really have no excuse for eating this rubbish, back home I would have recoiled in horror at the disc-shaped cardboard boxes, but here for some reason, the cheerful cow draws me in, and I find myself standing in front of the fridge at 5pm stuffing one of the salty little triangles into my mouth, rather like a boy who has just got in from school.

Next up are Biskrem. These where recently recommended to me by a Canadian friend, and I’ve subsequently noticed that you seem to be able to buy them all over town. What my Canadian friend didn’t warn me about was that Biskrem contain a secret ingredient which seems to be more addictive than crack cocaine.

Biskrem are a sort of sugary cookie, filled with chocolate cream. They have the advantage of not melting in the heat here, while providing a fairly legitimate crunchy chocolate fix. A packet of these boys won’t last a day in our house. I was going to take a photograph of a packet to post online, but by the time I got to the fridge it was gone…

P.S. Is it me or is the new blogger/google relationship more trouble than its worth? I can't seem to log in smoothly, and my dashboard comes up in French, even though I have set it to English... comments / recommendations for alternative sites welcome please!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Delights of Dakar...

Sometime ago, I think it was in 2001 or 2002, I was badgering various mates to come and see Senegalese Afro-rhumba group Orchestra Baobab play in London. There wasn’t much interest, and I was a bit disappointed not to go in the end. It never occurred to me that my next encounter with the group would be sitting having lunch with singer and founder member Rudy Gomis, chewing the fat about premiership football.

Anyhow, I won’t turn this into a music blog – it would probably end up with me in court after getting carried away and revealing which one of the surviving Beatles I’d like to chase around a warehouse with a shotgun. Go to: and see what you think is all I’ll say.

Anyhow, this is food related. Last night Mrs Jiffler and I were invited to celebrate the Dutch Queen’s Birthday at the Dutch Ambassador’s residence downtown. I realise this sounds slightly ridiculous, but for those uninitiated into expatriate life, the birthdays of our royal rulers are often marked with rather lavish ambassadorial functions. Our own Queen’s Birthday Party is due in June I think, were I will be gathering with other Brits, selected Europeans and Americans, and the great and the good of Senegalese society to drink free champagne all night and talk rubbish in the Ambassador’s garden. What a fine use of taxpayer’s money.

Our Dutch cousins put on a good spread – the aforementioned Orchestra Baobab were the house band, and there was some amusing Dutch art. The food though… well whoever came up with the ‘Food Design’ concept is probably still recovering. Check out their food art website here:

Fun though it was to eat bits of sausage from long bendy forks stuck into the lawn, or strawberries from spoons gaffer taped to the wall, I spent much of the evening wondering where I could stop for some food on the way home, and was rather pleased when waiters came round with cones of chips and mayonnaise later in the evening.

I’m glad to be back in the unreal world again anyway. I was almost getting comfortable back home.

All the Coque you can eat.

Fnar, fnar. Yes the French for cockle is indeed ‘Coque’. This causes untold amusement and hilarity at the dinner table as we tuck into a tray full of coque. The French left something of a gourmet legacy here in Dakar, which has endured since independence. Many of the pretensions that the French insist on attaching to food have been discarded in favour of a more simplistic approach – and I’m all for that.

So for roughly a quid fifty, four of you can pick at a massive tray of cockles served with a squeeze of lime. Or perhaps oysters might be more interesting, picked fresh that day and served with shallot vinegar, some of them are almost too big to slip down the throat. What else have I tried here… lobster, cuttlefish, sea bream, grouper, sardines, monkfish… I’ve got my eye on some sea urchins at one place as well, although I’ve no idea how you eat them.

What else… A bakery on every corner, nice cakes, imported European cheese (although no British cheeses, I shall have a word), a lovely, albeit expensive butchery. I don’t think I’ll have too many problems keeping the jiffler updated here, unless I spend too much time eating out…

Senegalese Food:

It’s a good job I like fish. Mrs Jiffler has already given a fairly comprehensive overview of the most popular national dishes in her February ‘Senegrub’ blog. I would add the rather marvellous Daxine (pronounced ‘Dahcheen’, with the ‘ch’ sounded as in ‘loch’) to Mrs Jiffler’s list as this is my current favourite. It consists mainly of a porridgy rice stew, with small bits of beef and spices. It tastes a bit similar to steak and kidney pudding, which might explain its appeal.

I’ve been eating Senegalese food pretty much everyday at the Baobab Centre ( where I am currently learning French. Eating here is a very social activity where one digs into a communal bowl with fingers or a spoon. With any luck I’ll get the health benefits of eating plenty of fish. Unfortunately, in many places in Senegal there is a tendency to use a strongly flavoured, salty, stock cube called ‘jumbo’. Its used in lots of dishes and I think many Senegalese are addicted, and perhaps so will I in a few months time…
One more thing, of all the fast food chains that could set up shop in Dakar… No golden arches, no KFC, no BK, Steers or Wimpey… Dakar’s global franchise is none other than Nandos…