dëbb: to pound

As I have been told by others, and found out for myself, even if you ask, Senegalese women will never really teach you how to togg (to prepare meals). It is because they never seem to really trust your ability to do anything—so many times I have tried to learn but have had the knife or onion or whatnot quickly snatched out of my hand when it appears I’m not doing it correctly! Instead, despite my constant pestering in the kitchen and the kindness of my family, I mostly find myself watching my sisters cook, desperately wishing I could join in.

However, there is one task in the kitchen that I have been allowed to do, and that is to pound the bisap, or the leaves of the hibiscus, which are stewed and then pounded into a paste, which is served on the side of the main dish. I have learned to take the handful of untrimmed bisap leaves and pick away the stems. The bisap is then stewed in oil, before being poured into a giant wooden mortar. With a big wooden pestle, about the size of my forearm, I then pound the bisap into a slimy green paste!

I am so proud whenever I am given the change to dëbb—but even after my best efforts, someone in the family will usually take the mortar and pestle away from me after some time and do it herself! That’s okay—after my hours of watching, and maybe after some Internet researching, I think I should be able to make some Senegalese food myself in no time.


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