That’s right, give it up for moi, today I made freakin’ tacos for dinner — from scratch. That’s what’s up. It was no mean feat, though, I tell ya. It started with the market, which is a hurricane of crazy. Hundreds of people constantly competing for your attention, “Le blanc! Le blanc! Ici! (White! White! Here!)”, trying to get you to buy this or that or ask you for money or just talk. One guy offered me the rest of his beer to keep hydrated on my bike, which was as badass as it was misinformed. A generous offer, nevertheless. You usually have at least one or two kids tailing you trying to figure out what you’re all about, also shouting “Le blanc!” and skipping around ground-level vendors and trenches and piles of trash and whatever else might get in the way. Motorcycle taxis fly by mere inches away from you carrying stunning amounts of cargo (I saw five people on one of them. What?). There are no rules to the road whatsoever. Horns mean “Hey, I’m gonna be where you are in two seconds or less, you better not be, too” and people just kinda swerve wherever the hell they want whenever the hell they want. There’s just a million and three things happening at all times.
I got into a good conversation with some guys on moto taxis waiting around for fares, and someone nearby offered to help me find what I needed. Super nice guy. Took me to the back alley market, which I was a little skeptical of at first, but they had everything I needed there at much better prices. At least on the main route they occasionally see a white person though. Back there, it was open season for gawking at le blanc. My guide was very helpful, making sure I didn’t get ripped off and so on. His name was Christian and he sells books for primary and secondary school students. He does it because he loves reading but says he doesn’t make nearly enough to support himself. Fortunately, right now, it’s just him and not a family.
Anyways, so the problem with making tacos in Cameroon is that, surprise, you can’t just buy tortillas. For the first time ever, I made my own, which is actually pretty simple. You just mix flour, water, oil, and some salt, make balls, roll ’em out, and fry ’em up. The key is not to undercook them, which I did a couple times. You gotta wait til they start to rise just a little and then take them off right away. It’s not hard but I was still pretty pleased with myself.
Next I cut up the beef, added garlic and seasoning, cooked until brown and added a bunch of cut up tomato and onion and sauteed the whole thing. The hard part is thoroughly washing all this stuff. In the States it’s a quick rinse, here you gotta soak everything in water with a little bit of bleach added for 15 minutes. It screws with your timing. But, after some difficulty, I had me twelve steamin’ completely homemade tacos. Mama was standing by throughout the whole thing, she was all excited to learn how to cook Mexican food and we had a great time of it. Definitely fun to be cooking for myself again, except this time with a whole new set of rules. I can’t say they were the best tacos I’ve ever made but they tasted vaguely like home and that’s what matters. My family really liked them, too. The girls especially were very excited that I could actually hold my own in a kitchen. Definitely something I’m gonna do earlier and more frequently in village for better integration.
I actually got my hands on an incredible cookbook assembled by PCVs in Cameroon. It’s 200-some pages and includes simple recipes for all sortsa awesome stuff (the tortillas, salad dressings, lasagna, breads of all varieties, cakes, curries, cheeses, you name it) using only ingredients available in-country. Pretty spectacular. It would be really useful at home, too, there’s lots of great tips. Carrots keep better in water, for example, and you can revive wilted lettuce by soaking it in water with a splash of lemon juice. Anyways, now, in addition to coming home as an incredibly fit and well-read semi-pro soccer player and guitar player, I will also be a damn fine chef. Dream big.
Speaking of cultural delicacies, let’s talk about corn bubblegum right quick. Contrary to what you’d expect living in America, where everything that isn’t corn-flavored has corn in it, corn bubblegum is made with precisely zero corn. Not even a chemical derived from corn. So, someone thought, “How can we get the delicious, starchy flavor of corn into a gum, completely artificially?” and made it happen. The result is a hard, gray sort of rock with the unique taste of drywall and, with the addition of some saliva, the consistency of Elmer’s glue. To recap, not only does corn bubblegum not contain any stupid corn, it doesn’t even taste like stupid corn. It just kind of turns into a muddy mess that’s basically impossible to get out of your mouth. My spit was gray for hours. Yup. Corn bubblegum. Available soon hopefully nowhere.
I will DEFINITELY get pictures of my family tomorrow someway somehow for the next post, which should be coming from Wum after swearing-in and becoming a real Volunteer on Wednesday! A ceremony which will be attended by Mrs. Chantel Biya, the Cameroonian president’s wife, seen here with none other than Paris Hilton…
Soak it in. Too fucking good, n’est pas?