Monthly Archives: December 2012

Fresh Coconut Salad

Fresh Coconut Salad

After using half a coconut to make some coconut milk for a soup, I had half a coconut to use up. I chopped it into ¼ inch chunks and added chopped onion. Tossed with some olive oil, lime juice and salt, it was a hit – bright, fresh flavors with crunch. I added fresh basil and mint to a later version. Yum.


Fresh Coconut Milk

Fresh Coconut Milk

I used to think that coconut milk came out of coconuts ready to use, but no. Crack open a coconut and there is water inside but it doesn’t have much flavor. Coconut milk is pressed from the coconut meat, as with a juicer. I don’t have a machine for pressing the milk from the coconut but have a great alternative. Coconuts are available in our town for about $0.30 and will produce roughly two cans worth of coconut milk. I crack the coconut open on my front stoop, grate the coconut meat and then bring it to the grinder on the corner. I could press the mash through a sieve to separate the milk from the pulp but the pulp adds body to dishes. Procuring coconut milk this way takes a little longer than opening a can, but its fun.

Coconut Milk 2


No Cuisinart? No Problem.

No Cuisinart

Just outside of the concession where we live there is an intersection with several small businesses including: a woman selling oranges; a woman selling tomatoes, garlic and ginger; and a woman who runs a grinding machine. Its basically a blender run by a lawnmower engine; the engines for the machines are literally pulled from old lawnmowers and other discarded machines. The grinder/blender part is made locally. For 50 cfa ($0.10), you can run whatever ingredients you want through the machine and they will be ground to a pulp. Families bring bowls of tomatoes with onions, garlic, ginger and hot chiles which are ground before being cooked into the ubiquitous Beninese tomato sauce.

Grinder 2

Gas Stand

Gas Stand

Though there are a handful of gas stations in big cities, the vast majority of people buy their gas from roadside stands like the ones in the photos above and below. Gas is stored in big glass jugs, in 1.5 liter plastic bottles, in wine bottles and whatever other bottles are handy. Pull up and select the size of bottle you want. The stand will put a funnel lined with a rag (to filter out whatever was previously in the bottle) into your tank and fill ‘er up. The roadside gas is cheaper than commercial gas stations. It is illegally brought in from neighboring Nigeria whose oil reserves and subsidized gasoline keep the price low.

gas stand 2

Barber Shop

Barber Shop

This is a local barbershop about a mile from our house though not my barber; I frequent a barber much closer to our home. Barbershops are extremely common. There are at least a dozen within a mile radius of our house. Haircuts cost $0.60; a shave is an additional $0.20.

 Most of the barber shops open by 8 a.m., close after 9 p.m., are open seven days a week and are owned and run by one person. Many shops in town (carpenters, metal workers, mechanics, food stands, etc.) have the same hours. Employees will nap on the floor during the hottest part of the day. I recently woke my barber from a nap to get a haircut. He opened his eyes, stretched, stood, asked how my day was going and got to work.


Building an Herb Garden (Merry Christmas!)

Building a Garden

Jen planted our Christmas moringa tree the day we moved into our house but it hasn’t reached Charlie Brown size yet. Her green thumb can only be held back for so long, however. In the photo above, Jen paused to pose for a picture in front of the new garden with our neighbor. He was a big help.

Garden before shot

Above – the before shot.

Below – breaking up the ground before adding in the garden border of broken cinder blocks we found in the corner of the yard.

breaking ground in garden

Below – Jen planting the basil seedlings that she’d started soon after we moved in.