Life on the Frontier

An Embassy is like a frontier town. A small embassy even more so. And often “It takes a village.” The holidays are one of those times.  Those of us who don’t head out for home or at least family somewhere else band together for fellowship and…to be blunt about it…food.

If you think about it, a lot of the holidays is about food.  Breakfast Christmas morning — Dinner with a Turkey or Ham — New Years Parties…okay a lot of them are more about drinking, but there is food involved.

As I’ve said before, Benin is considered “Africa Lite”.  There really isn’t any problem getting most of what you’d like for any meal, although you may have to search and you may have to pay a ridiculous amount for it.  But there are a few flavors of home which just haven’t made it to the Francophone world.  And for those, you go to the community.

Everybody has a pantry full of stuff they shipped from home, and it’s a little different for each person.  Ask around, and anything you need (a can of Cream of Mushroom soup for green bean casserole…barbeque sauce for ribs or chicken…refried beans for Mexican night) can be found.  And nobody questions it, because they know somewhere squirreled away you have something they’ll need (Heinz ketchup…whole cranberry sauce…instant oatmeal).

So, the holidays is when everyone digs into the pantry and comes out with a taste from home…and away.  Since the Foreign Service is full of people who have lived lots of places, they foods and spices they’ve discovered make their way from post to post.  The just completed holiday season came complete with several pot-luck suppers (and one breakfast), and every one of them brought friends and good food.

So what do I have hiding in the pantry?  Well, for one meal I mixed B&M and Bush’s baked beans with onions and some Jack Daniels barbeque sauce.  For the breakfast I fired up the waffle iron and brought out the Aunt Jemima and Log Cabin.  There’s more, but it’ll have to wait for the next holiday!

BTW, if you’ve been putting off buying a pizza stone, get one.  It really makes a difference cooking pizzas.  I’m told it even helps with frozen pizzas, although I haven’t tried that, because I’ve been making them fresh.  Everything’s from Benin except the pepperoni.  The stone is preheated and cooks the crust without burning the cheese and toppings.  Just be sure to dust the pizza paddle with plenty of corn meal so the pizza slides on and off easily.  The one time I forgot…well, just remember!

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