To celebrate finishing the bar exam, and the start of the Olympics we decided to have a B-tastic potluck celebrating four B countries. Since we are unfamiliar with the cuisine of these countries, I was a little skeptical that it would turn out to be tasty, but I loved almost all of the dished we made.
The country I found most fascinating, and knew nothing about… didn’t even know which region it was in, was Brunei. Turns out Brunei is a small piece of the island of Borneo, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia.
Brunei is a sultanate. That’s right, they have a sultan. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien is one of the richest people in the world. Brunei s almost totally supported by exports of crude oil and natural gas, which they have in abundance. The per capita GDP is one of the highest in the world, and the government provides free medical care and subsidized food and housing, although most of the country’s wealth goes to the elite.
From Brunei we made Rujak Brunei which is a spiced fruit salad. The tamarind dressing was sooooo tasty and made me want to eat the entire plate of sliced fruits & veggies. We could not find carambola (star fruit) anywhere in utah, and the papaya we bought was nasty (isn’t papaya always nasty?) so we substituted cantaloupe.
Next we had food from three African nations Benin, Botswana and Burundi. Of these, I could point out all but Benin on a map. Whew, getting better at my geography.
Benin is in West Africa between two more known countries, Ghana and Nigeria. The official language of Benin is French, however, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are still widely spoken. Benin (then called Dahomey) gained independence from France in 1960, and had a democracy until it became a Marxist-Leninist state in 1972. That lasted until 1991 when multi-party elections started again. Because Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, the meat is consumed only for special occasions, so we were able to find some tasty vegetarian recipes. Here is a super interesting article about Beninese cuisine.
We have gleaned many recipes from the fantastic project Travel by Stove. That’s where we found this Beninese recipe for Peanut Sauce over Rice. You could really make anything with peanut sauce and it would be delicious. I liked this one because it was thick enough to be a main course.
Bostwana gained independence from the UK in 1966, and is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. It has around 2 million people and it is slightly smaller in size than Texas.
Neil made a vegetarian version of these Botswanan Chicken Pies with seitan chicken in lieu of flesh-of-animal chicken. These little pies were so spicy and SOOOOO tasty. We made them with puff pastry to cut out an additional step.
Botswana is very close to our sister in law Chrizelle’s home country of South Africa.
Pete (Neil’s brother who served a mission in South Africa) made a Kenyan dish called Sukuma Wiki.
Back when Neil was working at the IRC as a refugee case manager he had to do a lot of odd things on the fly and I ended up helping him out most of the time. One time we had to take a family recently arrived from Burundi grocery shopping. They had been overlooked and needed food to get them through the weekend until their foodstamps came in on Monday. They spoke absolutely NO English. They did not even understand the word “no,” so we had a very difficult time explaining that they did not need to store up food, and that we’d only be getting things to tide them over. We spent some time with Neil’s mom on the phone trying to remember all of the Kswahili she could remember (they had spent time in Kenya at a refugee camp) to communicate. They also did not recognize much of the food and were frustrated and confused about what to buy. Then one of the boys had a thought hit him: COCACOLA! They all agreed that they should buy large amounts of Coke. I’m not sure how, of all things, that’s the one product they recognized and desired, but it probably just felt good to buy something they were familiar with. If I recall, I think we ended up walking out with a cart full of Coke products and yams and were able to somehow get across that they would be shopping more extensively in a few days.
Although Ibiharage doesn’t sound very good, the cakes were quite tasty. Our dear friends Chris & Cherie made a delicious lentil dish from Burundi.
As always with the PIG project, being in the company of family and friends is the whole point. Being in Utah this summer we have been able to rendezvous with some cherished ones. After the scrumptious meal we hunkered down for the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic games. All four B countries were represented by athletes. I thought the part where they somehow incorporated an interpretive dance about the U.K.’s universal healthcare system was a bit weird, but who am I to judge? Although I’m not as much of an Olympics enthusiast as the rest of the bunch, I do think it’s fun to watch all of the Olympians from the different countries walk out into the ceremonies.