One of the common misconceptions many Americans have is that countries we think of as “third-world” have little to offer in terms of either food or culture. Especially when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa, we – myself included – tend to know little, thinking of these countries only as destinations for a safari. This week, A and I wanted to dispel a couple of those misconceptions, delving into Senegal, a French-speaking country in northwestern Africa.
To say I didn’t know much about the country before researching for our date would be an understatement. Normally I have some sense of what I’d like to do, and it’s just a question of finding it. For Senegal, it was researching basic things. What is the country known for? What is there to see? That alone made the experience worthwhile for me, and after this date night, I feel that I know just a tiny bit about what seems to be a cool place.
Reminder, if you like this date night, please check out all of our travel themed date nights by clicking here.
Senegalese-Themed Date Night
Eat: Thieboudienne and Chocolate-Mango Cake
It seems every culture has a version of this dish: a stew of vegetables, seafood, and rice. Thieboudienne, the Senegalese national dish, is just that, with a couple of notable differences that make it more unique. First, the fish is either covered or stuffed with a paste of garlic and parsley. Um, yum!! Second, it is a tomato base, though the veggies can vary – I used onion and green pepper – and has spicy peppers in it as well. I cooked the fish separately and then served it on top, but traditionally the fish is cooked in the stew itself.
Desserts were a bit tougher to find, but A discovered that this basic recipe is used all over the country, a cake with chocolate chips, and small pieces of diced mango to make it incredibly moist. I guess you use what’s available, and while chocolate and mango isn’t a combination I’d have thought of, it worked well.
The cake was incredibly moist!
Learn: The History of Senegal
Not surprisingly, YouTube isn’t full of cute animated videos about the history of Senegal, like it is for European nations. I did, however, find this less-exciting-but-still-interesting video, which touched on two of the things my research uncovered: the top tourist destination in the country, the departure point for slave ships to the New World called Goree Island; and Senegalese wrestling. There is WAY too much footage of wrestling, but it’s at the end so just stop when you’re done.
Visit: African Renaissance Sculpture
Built to honor the country’s 50th anniversary, this is HUGE and awesome. It’s also on Google street view, so punch it in and check it out!
Just look at the tiny person at the bottom for scale.
Nobody was more surprised than I was to find that Netflix has an award-winning Senegalese film. Atlantics is in a combination of French and Wolof with subtitles, and combines politics and culture with romance and a bit of horror. Is it fantastic? No. But it’s interesting, a compelling watch, and a way to support a burgeoning African film industry. Give it a try!
The main character is a young woman from Dakar, seen here.
Senegal seems like a pretty cool place, and after this date, one that I’d like to visit one day. I guess that’s really the point, right? To learn a bit about a new destination while we are stuck in one place due to Covid. I hope we have inspired you to give Senegal a try for an evening!
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