Monday, June 15, 2009

May I take your order? We have carbs with sauce, carbs with sauce or… carbs with sauce!!

As I mentioned before, my host family owns one of the popular local restaurants on the main street of Fada N’gourma. Them owning this restaurant opens up a multitude of opportunities for me. Not only is it my favourite lunch stop, I have recently been serving at the restaurant, and also helping prepare some of the food. I have met so many amazing people because of it, and feel much more integrated into the culture. None of the family members actually work in the restaurant because they all have full time jobs, but any free moment they have they are back and forth from the house to the restaurant to help with serving, bringing the fried fish from home for the fish soup, bringing the tô that we make every night for the restaurant or motoring off to the market to pick up missing supplies.

Here's a picture of the kitchen at the restaurant where the magic happens

The restaurant was originally by a Catholic women’s group that mma Eveline is the president of but has been in the family since 2005 when Eveline took over running it. It is a very popular restaurant in town and is at the corner of one of the main intersections in Fada. One of the only stop lights, so it’s not hard to find.

As the title suggests, the menu is pretty much solely carbs and sauce :) There’s riz sauce tomate (rice with tomato sauce, riz gras (rice with lard sauce)

riz sauce and riz gras

riz sauce arachide (rice with peanut sauce made from the peanut butter we make at home)

couscous with tomato sauce, haricots (beans), spaghetti with tomato sauce, macaroni with tomato sauce, tô with a different sauce every night, and to be different from the carbs and sauce… fish soup. My personal favourite is couscous because we have so much rice and tô at home that it’s nice to have a change. I ventured out and tried spaghetti last week, but since the tomato sauce is the same as for the rice and the couscous, the spaghetti doesn’t really absorb the sauce well and the noodles kind of swim in a tomatoey soup.

The specialty of the night is always tô. We make the tô at home and put it in small plastic containers and then someone drives it to the restaurant on the back of their motorcycle. It is fun to know that the food that I help prepare in the comforts of my African home is being enjoyed by someone in a restaurant down the street.

Serving is really different than in Canada. The servers here are very shy and quiet when they serve a table, and kind of just walk up to the table and stand there and wait for the customer to order. They are very different when you get to know them, and I have become great friends with all of them. So how the serving goes is… first, a customer comes in, then you go and wipe off or clear their table and take their order, then you go into the kitchen, dish up the carb of choice

This is where we dish up the food

then either pour the sauce on top, or put it in a small silver dish depending on the meal,

This is where the sauces are made and dished up... kept warm by the burning coals

then bring it out on a big silver platter, and then bring the customer some water. Pretty immediately you go and write out the bill and bring it to them whether they ask for it or not. Adjaratou is the one in charge of the money box. She is the only one with the key, so when it’s really busy, we’re all chasing after her trying to get change!! She lives at the house with us, but isn’t a member of the family. She is a dedicated worker and works 7 days a week from 7am to 11pm. I am in constant admiration of her. The other servers aren’t as tied down to the restaurant, and are allowed breaks to go to church or run errands for the restaurant at the market. I still get weird looks when I serve, but the regulars are getting used to it, and it doesn’t bother me too much.

Here's a pic of me serving

There’s also a resident kitty that comes to hang out at the restaurant. I’m always shy of taking pictures without asking so I asked if I could take a picture of the kitty and they looked at me as if I was crazy. I guess I didn’t realize it was a stray and that it was a bit of a weird question to ask.

It’s fun to be at the restaurant at night because it gets really busy and then all of a sudden dies down and we all just sit around a table and hang out.

This is a picture of Mohammed, one of the servers in the restaurant, and Pierre in the back, another server

There’s a TV on all the time, and there are certain people that come just to watch certain shows and either don’t eat or grab a pop or a beer. All throughout the day there are various soap operas on that the women, and even the men, crowd around the TV to watch. It’s quite the sight. I’ve started to get to know all of the commercials that play, and am amused when the ad for the S club 7 TV show comes on and advertises this “NEW and EXCITING series”. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I thought that S club 7 was new in about 1999. Haha. There is also a funny commercial for a motorcycle (one of many), and this one talks about how amazing life is when you have this motorcycle, and ironically enough has an Evanescence song playing in the background called “I’m going under” and is a rather depressing song.

All in all, the family owning this restaurant really enriches my stay here, and makes me feel integrated, and like I am able to give back to the family by helping in the restaurant. Who would have thought I would be serving in a local restaurant in Fada N'gourma and that my skills developed at Hell's Kitchen and Sage Bistro would come in handy here?


  1. That's great! I'm going to start selling the dried fish at the local market with the mother soon. As for the add, I knew you'd love hearing about that and I love that we both laugh and die at these while the rest of the world here is just watching the motorcycle.
    I had spaghetti last week too... at the village, don't know how that happened but it did. They had a really nice sauce though, not too runny.
    xox see you tonight!

  2. With all those carbs, you will be a real African woman before you know it - nice big hips!
    I wonder how you make the peanut butter sauce, do the nuts get ground with mortar and pestle?

  3. I love how you paint such a detailed picture of the theme of every blog entry. Your whole experience is getting fleshed out....and I am so thankful for the many images! Besides the restaurant carb fare, are fruits very available for your own diet?
    What's the tipping situation?
    I'm also curious to know if you pronounce 'mma' like it looks.....this is a reference to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books.
    Have a great retreat this week.
    love mom

  4. Looks like you are having a great time. House is good, overwhelming but good. Keep on having a good time and we'll look forward to many stories when you get back.


  5. Finally caught up with your news.
    You look usual. Your life sounds interesting and exciting.....except for the food....carbs and more carbs!
    Did your tush get sore riding on that donkey?
    Your Mom asked about tips...I am curious also. Adena just got a job in a 'Michellin' restaurant in Paris. No tipping there, but, somehow they do?
    I suppose you are getting used to the heat?
    Time to say 'shalom'...friends have arrived.
    Do you remember a student I once taught...Andrew Maerov? (more later)