Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Foreign" food in a foreign country

I don't know why it is that every time I visit a country in Africa people want to take me out to a "foreign" restaurant. By foreign I mean something like Chinese or Indian or Italian. I am sure that most African countries have local cuisine just as good as any.  A few years ago visiting Port-Gentil in Gabon someone took me to a Libyan restaurant. This was the first time again in many years that I learned two new English words on the same day, "Usban" and "entrails". Unfortunately they were also in the same sentence. You see Usban is a well-known Libyan dish made by stuffing the entrails of animals after going through an intensive cleaning process, usually sheep, but also cattle and camels. The main ingredients of the stuffing are rice, parsley, meat and pluck. Oh yes, I remember now, I learned the word "pluck" as well that day. I guess this is the equivalent of Scottish Haggis or "offal" which we eat in South Africa. I shouldn't say "we", because I don't count myself in when it comes to eating the leftover pieces of any animal's intestines. So, I decided there and then that Libyan food is not for me.

Today I am in Port-Gentil again and got invited to a restaurant for lunch. I was stupid enough to say "I eat anything" because after my answer the suggestion came to do Libyan then. There was no way out for me. I just had to make sure that I didn't get the French word for "Usban" wrong. Well I was lucky, the plat du jour was poulet avec du riz et la soupe. I know enough French to be certain that Usban was not going to be on my plate. I only learned later that the la soupe was actually a very thin sauce meant to go over the rice. If you had tried the meal, you would understand why there was "soup" to cover the meal. I realized after the first few bites that I would be needing extra fluids to get it down my throat because it was really dry.

I couldn't finish my meal, it was just too much. It didn't taste bad at all to be honest, especially when compared to the previous "Libyan-experience" I had in the same town many years ago. I guess all nationalities have one or two of these traditional meals that don't go down easily if it hadn't been forced down your throat since childhood. So, I got the T-shirt for Usban, Haggis and Offal already...and a taste that still sometimes appears back in my mouth despite thousands of fluoride treatments and mouth wash, but today I fortunately escaped it. Tomorrow however lunch is on me and I'm choosing the restaurant.....

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