Senegal is a nutty place – and I mean that in the most affectionate and agricultural way. But really – the Senegalese grow and eat a lot of peanuts. Lightly roasted in the shells from roadside vendors to buckets of thick, unprocessed peanut butter to crackly, sweet sweets – there are so many ways to eat peanuts here!
According to Wikipedia, 40% of cultivated land is taken up by peanuts in Senegal – up to 2 million hectares! It is a cash crop for many farmers, especially in the “peanut basin”, a region in the central part of Senegal, including Fatick, Kaolack, and Kaffrine.
In America we probably eat most of our peanut butter in sandwich form. PB&J is a lunchbox staple the country wide and for good reason! The salty nuttiness of this spread, whether crunchy or smooth, pairs so well with the sweetness of jam, honey, or even marshmallow fluff!
Here in Senegal however the most popular way to use peanut butter is in a dish called mafe. Peanut butter is cooked into a tomatoey onion sauce with palm oil and then draped over rice. If the family can afford it meat is also cooked into the sauce, if not fishballs are sometimes substituted. It is probably the stickiest dish I eat here!
To buy peanut butter you go to a specific part of the market where there are 8-10 women sitting in a line, all selling peanut butter. This lack of diversification is a common problem in the market, but that’s another story.
Each woman has several large buckets full of the stuff from which they will scoop large dollops into plastic sachets. However your inevitable choice of one woman to buy from will garner rebukes from the others – “why aren’t you buying peanut butter from me?” .
Also in the market there are several other peanut products you can buy to snack on. One of these is a familiar-looking peanut brittle that is deliciously crunchy. Another is mbourake – a sandy powder made of millet or crushed dried bread, sugar and peanut butter pounded together in a mortar and pestle.
Peanuts are beloved in Senegal, and for good reason! Whether sweet or savory you are sure to find your peanut match here!
Thanks for reading,
(Sorry for all the Google pictures, I’ll try to update this as I gather some of my own from around Tamba.)