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Starapple

Montego Bay, Jamaica, W.I.
lyndalee

Starapple is a large fruit tree, distinguished by its leaves of 2 colors – green above and bronze below, and its large round fruits like apples. The fruits are either purple or green-skinned when... Read more

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Dish Spotlight: Madagascar’s Love Affair with Ravitoto Jessie Beck June 18, 2014

Plate of ravitoto, from Madagascar
We never said ravitoto was pretty (credit).

Though relatively unknown in the West, cassava, also called manioc or yucca, has long been an important staple food throughout much of Africa (and elsewhere), including Madagascar and the rest of the sub-Saharan region, showing up in restaurants and markets, and on family’s tables, nearly as often as french fries in the U.S. (see also: cassava leaf stew in Sierra Leone). Widespread as it is, however, this potato-like tuber is nothing special in a culinary sense: It has a starchy, slightly bitter taste and, if not prepared correctly, contains traces of cyanide. So why on Earth would so many people eat this plant?

Cassava’s many...

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Tags: Africa dishes

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The Melting-Pot Cuisine of Réunion: What to Eat Jessie Beck January 6, 2014

Piment, peppers from Reunion
Piment, in Réunion. Photo by Jessie Beck

Mention Réunion to most Anglophone travelers, and they’ll shake their heads: “Where?” Do the same at a dinner table full of travel-savvy French and you’re more likely to evoke a chorus of oohs before the conversation turns to tropical weather, volcanoes, and—most important—la cuisine creole.

Île de la Réunion, a little island outpost of France, sits in a lonely spot in the Indian Ocean, far from any mainland but comfortably nestled between Madagascar and Mauritius. Though technically considered an African island, visitors would be hard-pressed to identify the island’s personality, culture, and cuisine as purely African. Instead, its unique...

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Tags: destinations Africa

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The Street Foods of Antsirabe, Madagascar Jessie Beck December 10, 2013

Nem, a spring roll street food in Madagascar
Nem, a spring roll-like street food in Madagascar.

Near the daily market of Antsirabe, the pleasant hillside town of Madagascar’s highlands (and third-largest city in the country), women with enormous bowls of batter sit next to sizzling pots of oil over low charcoal stoves. While crouching or sitting on wooden stools, they fan their flames and plop their freshly fried goods into mountainous piles of steaming fresh snacks. Also lining the streets are small display boxes filled with bowls of breads, noodles, salads, even spaghetti. Other vendors mingle with the crowd, hawking their wares to shoppers while balancing plastic containers atop their heads. While the Malagasy staple...

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Tags: Africa destinations

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Dish Spotlight: Kitfo in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Jessie Beck November 13, 2013

Contributor Jessie Beck hunts down Ethiopia’s favorite raw-beef dish.

Kitfo from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Photo by Jessie Beck.

Before I landed in Ethiopia, my knowledge of Ethiopian food went no further than a few dinners on 14th Street in Washington D.C., where a large diaspora of Ethiopians and Eritreans have set up shop and, accordingly, some great Ethiopian restaurants. I only vaguely knew the ingredients of what I was eating. I became familiar with injera, the spongy fermented bread used to soak up and grasp other foods, but what were those little piles sharing the platter with it? Lentils? Beans? Cabbage? Even in my ignorance, I still loved trekking out to those places to get my hands messy dipping injera...

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Tags: dishes Africa

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Quintessential Dakar: What to Eat Laura Siciliano-Rosen May 14, 2013

A city spotlight on Dakar, Senegal’s sultry capital city, where French, Wolof, and North African influence meets local ingredients in the kitchen—and on the street.

Pirogue boats on the beach in Ngor, Dakar, Senegal
Hand-carved pirogues on the beach in Ngor, in Dakar

Perched on the edge of West Africa, Senegal has long gone quietly about its business while its neighbors get into all sorts of trouble. Quietly, of course, is a misleading word in the context of Dakar, the sultry capital city and dust-ridden domain of all-night music clubs, infamous traffic, relentless hustlers, and nonstop construction, where the dead silence of night is regularly punctured by soaring muezzin calls to mosque.

And then there’s the food. Among other...

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Tags: destinations Africa

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Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone: 11 Primate Species, Five Tents, One Cook Laura Siciliano-Rosen March 25, 2013

Moa River from Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Sierra Leone

Our immediate impressions of Tiwai Island, a wildlife sanctuary/research facility and community-led conservation initiative in Sierra Leone’s southeast, weren’t the best: Here we found ourselves on a hot, buggy tropical island in the isolated Moa River, with two very quiet nights ahead. The common area for guests, a large domed, open-sided solar-powered hut in the middle of a forest clearing, offered little distraction other than an information board and a few wooden tables. Same for the simple wood-roofed platforms, each holding one or two tents, dotting the clearing’s perimeter. Scott and I had been relatively unplugged since arriving in Sierra Leone a week and a half earlier, but...

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Tags: Africa travel destinations

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Photos: Art in Dakar Scott Rosen September 17, 2012

Everywhere I turned in Dakar, there was something colorful (albeit often covered in dust) to admire: Art, like crunchy baguettes and good music, seems to be everywhere in Senegal's capital city. Some of it we purchased and brought home with us, but most of it we had to be content with photographing. Here are a few shots of Dakarois art.

Graffiti in Dakar, Senegal.

A quick sketch maybe, but this wall was part of Village des Artes, a peaceful yet abundant artist community that is a must-visit.

 

Religious art in Dakar, Senegal.

I saw this image often, but here on this turquoise wall in the Ouakam neighborhood, it was most vibrant and beautiful.

 

Painting in Dakar, Senegal.

Another beautiful painting from the Village des Artes. This African woman's profile...

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Tags: Africa photos

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Freetown Through a Car Window Laura Siciliano-Rosen August 20, 2012

We first arrived to Freetown via water taxi from the airport, a bumpy adventure in the pitch-black night. Our brief drive through the western part of town revealed a city in full Friday-night revelry: unruly streets, overflowing clubs, and candlelit food vendors, their flickering orange flames extending down the road before us. After 10 days of travel, we returned to the capital via car in the middle of the day and witnessed another, equally chaotic Freetown. On Kissy Road and Sani Abacha Street, the cars compete for space with a smattering of motorbikes and loads of merchandise, but mostly just an inordinate amount of people, going about their daily business. We captured some of it...

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Tags: video Africa travel

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African cooking: What's with the Maggi cubes? Laura Siciliano-Rosen August 8, 2012

Maggi stock cubes—rich with sodium, MSG, and hydrogenated fats—are ubiquitous in West African cooking. Meet the nutritious traditional seasonings they’re replacing.

Groundnut soup in Sierra Leone
Groundnut soup, Sierra Leone

At a beautiful eco-resort on Sierra Leone’s Freetown Peninsula this spring, Scott and I were invited to tag along for the weekly run to the local market. On the shopping list was everything from groundnuts (peanuts) and pineapple to bread and eggs, and Maggi. I didn’t think anything of the flavoring agent, figuring the stock cubes were thrown into a few of the local stews as a base. But a large pack was purchased for the week, and at the market, it was clearly a popular item. We soon...

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Tags: Africa

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Letting Go in Senegal Laura Siciliano-Rosen July 27, 2012

A donkey walks a roof in Popenguine, Senegal
View from the road in Popenguine

When Scott and I travel for Eat Your World, it’s hardly relaxing. Before even getting to a destination, our minds are already swimming with loads of pre-trip research, we know what foods we’re tracking down and where, and we have a game plan—a soft itinerary of sorts, which always changes upon arrival—of how we might go about squeezing it all into our limited travel time. Once in town, we run around eating and drinking and writing and hiking as much as humanly possible. Sure, it’s the best kind of stuff to busy yourself with—and, in truth, we’d be doing it on a smaller scale even without the website—but it’s also pretty exhausting.

Which is why...

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Tags: travel Africa

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Local Oysters, Sierra Leone Style Scott Rosen June 5, 2012

Bureh Beach palm trees at sunset, Sierra Leone

After a full day village-hopping along the Freetown Peninsula’s beautiful coastline, we hit our last stop, Bureh beach. We didn’t plan on saving the best for last; it just happened. On this idyllic stretch of palm tree-studded sand—with a river flowing directly through it, emptying into the sea—not another soul was in sight. Laura, Mark, and I jumped into the warm waves and washed off the dirt and sweat from the day’s journey. It was just us three; our guide for the day, Daniel; and a Bureh local named Tom, who found us within seconds of our arrival.  

Tom, clearly the town proprietor of goods of all kind, shot off a verbal menu of local fish, oysters, art, and illegal substances...

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Tags: travel Africa

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Sierra Leone: A Traveler’s Perspective Laura Siciliano-Rosen April 26, 2012

Somewhere between waking up to peaceful lagoon views; swimming in a warm, empty sea before breakfast; and feasting on spicy pumpkin stew at lunch, I started to wonder: Why isn’t this place swarmed with tourists?

Lagoon on John Obey beach, Freetown Peninsula, Sierra Leone
View of lagoon from bungalow, Tribewanted, John Obey beach

I could guess the answer—this was Sierra Leone, the tiny corner of West Africa best known for an ugly slavery history, a decade-long civil war (1991-2002), and the violent thriller Blood Diamond—but it still didn’t make sense. As I surveyed pristine John Obey beach, where Scott and I stayed our first few nights at eco-tourism venture Tribewanted, the word “paradise” easily sprung to mind.

John Obey beach, Freetown Peninsula, Sierra Leone
John Obey beach,...

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Tags: travel photos video Africa

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Hunting for Dibi, Senegal Laura Siciliano-Rosen April 20, 2012

 Dibiterie Haoussa in Dakar, Senegal

One of many temples to dibi, or grilled meat, in Dakar, this dibiterie boasts a cult-like status in the capital: It’s said to be musician Youssou N’Dour’s favorite, dispensing inexpensive, expertly prepared food at all hours in suitably questionable hygienic conditions. After hearing the place reverentially spoken about by more than one trusted expat, we knew we had to find it.

Problem is, nobody had any clue where it was. Armed with limited directions— “somewhere near the Sandaga bus station”—and even more limited French, we wandered the dusky streets around the area marché, or market, where hours earlier we’d elbowed our way through crowds of sellers. Now it was quiet, empty but...

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Tags: photos Africa

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Georgie & the Boom, Senegal Scott Rosen April 12, 2012

What happens when Team EYW shows up to a fancy eco-lodge with the best restaurant in Senegal? They wind up eating at the bar man’s house.

Every friend of ours who has been to Senegal recommended we go to a hotel and restaurant in the Sine Saloum region called Lodge des Collines de Niassam. Besides having beautiful eco-friendly bungalows built into baobab trees and overlooking a bird-filled lagoon, the property is notorious for having the best French-inspired fare in the country. It was a big splurge for us, especially after three weeks of pricier-than-anticipated travel around West Africa, but we decided to go nonetheless, calling it an early seven-year wedding anniversary...

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Tags: travel Africa

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An EYW Interview, and Airport Delay Laura Siciliano-Rosen March 16, 2012

We're stuck in Dakar's airport, waiting for our delayed flight to Freetown, and thought we'd use the opportunity to share the Q&A we recently did for journalist Cyrus Farivar's blog. The task proved harder than we'd thought: After a wasted $4 and half-hour of struggle with the French keyboards in the main lounge downstairs, we realized that our business-class seats--the last two seats available on this flight when we purchased them last week--entitled us to the "Prestige" lounge upstairs, where free wireless internet, food, and drinks await. Prestigious indeed!

So here we are in the lap of luxury, with A/C, cushy chairs, our iPad hooked up, and all the apples and peanuts, local...

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Tags: news Africa

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Scenes From Dakar's Soumbedioune Fish Market, Senegal Laura Siciliano-Rosen March 14, 2012

After just three days, dusty Dakar has drawn us in with its street-corner baguettes, mellow fishing villages, surf-friendly beaches, and mad markets. A highlight among our explorations thus far has been the fish market at Soumbedioune, a cove on which the men's brightly painted pirogues, or canoes, are pulled from the water each evening, and the day's haul of seafood put out to sale. One side of the market is crowded by grill stations, manned by women cooking fresh fish over hot coals.

Between about 4pm and 6pm, the boats are lugged in, requiring a team of heaving men and two logs (or big empty metal canisters) to facilitate movement. The shore is crowded with onlookers,...

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Tags: travel video Africa

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Why West Africa? Laura Siciliano-Rosen March 9, 2012

Tomorrow we leave for three weeks in Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The vaccines have been given, the bags (almost) packed, the subletter for our New York apartment is in place. We should already be there—we pushed back our trip partly to avoid Senegal’s protest-riddled presidential election on February 26, only to have it go into a runoff election happening smack-dab in the middle of our visit there (March 25). Hopefully we’ll be in the area during a positive historic moment, when peace and democracy win the day. According to friends in the area, that is what should happen.

In recent weeks we’ve been asked “why there?” a few times, either in the context of “how do you choose where you...

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Tags: travel Africa

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