Browsing the markets of Western Africa, one soon realizes the diversity of fresh ingredients that are available. During a recent trip to The Gambia we spent half a day with Ida Cham – an accomplished individual who spent years in the Gambian hospitality industry. In 2008 she started her cooking school and over the years has entertained visitors from around the world interested in various Gambian cuisines.
Guests enter Ida’s home and are immediately put at ease by the restful environment; a giant mango tree growing out of her patio provides much needed shade at times. She provides colorful Gambian attire for both men and women. Then it is off to a local fish market (Tanji Market) to explore the diversity of fresh products from both the land and the sea.
This market is chaotic at times, but Ida purposefully steers her guests through the crowds to select vendors – stopping to pick up a variety of fresh fish and veggies. The empty wicker baskets you brought to the market will soon be filled with fresh vegetables.
Returning to Ida’s home, guests can choose to participate as much or as little as they like. Guests who get the most out of her classes ask the most questions! Why are certain ingredients used, what are specific recipes, what is Ida’s culinary background and questions about Gambia’s history are good topics of conversation as you prepare your meal.
Or while waiting, learn how to play Mancala – an African board game for two people (played with seeds).
Guests enjoy meals in a private semi-open room. Your meal will not disappoint; we enjoyed swordfish, barracuda, Gambian rice, green mango, bitter tomato, cassava root and cabbage paired with several tasty sauces.
For more information and to signup for a cooking class while you are in The Gambia, visit: www.facebook.com/gambianhomecooking
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